As riders we enjoyed exceptional hospitality at the FEI World Cup Final in Omaha. For so many this was an unknown venue and city, but there was no need to fear. The venue itself is very like the NEC, Birmingham. There was wonderful space for training and superb competition room, as well as stabling and catering for everyone from volunteers to the highest officials.
The hotel was just a two-minute walk from the show with a covered skywalk over the road, which meant you didn’t even have to go outside — handy when it was raining.
The show kicked off with a fantastic welcome party at the Omaha Aquarium, reputedly one of the two best in the country. Ireland’s Judy Reynolds and I did the draw, where I had a slight Oscars moment and announced La La Land as the winner!
That Isabell Werth was drawn to start last, not only in the grand prix and the freestyle, but also for the warm-up, put me in no doubt that stars do line up.
As always bad luck strikes though, and I felt sad for poor Hans Peter Minderhoud who lost his title defence chance when Flirt was found to be lame just before the flight, and for Jessica von Bredow-Werndl whose Unee B started to suffer from colic at the airport. Thankfully both horses are fine and will be out competing this coming season.
Even worse was the New Zealand horse Dejavu MH. To go the whole way — imagine how many miles that journey was — only for the stewards to find after his test that he’d bitten the inside of his mouth, causing elimination under the blood rule. As only a Kiwi can, Wendy Williamson did her best to support everyone else. Full marks to her for that!
There is no question that Isabell Werth will be unstoppable for the foreseeable future. The tables have turned and now she’s the one to catch. Laura Graves’ Verdades is often volatile but the final advantage of home support lifted this partnership to another level.
Although my ride Barney (Nip Tuck) decided to embark on the 5:2 diet on arrival, which was slightly alarming as you do need petrol in the tank for this job and he was existing on bits of hay, he finally got his mojo back and I was ecstatic to finish third. If you haven’t seen the photos and video of the prize-giving it was absolutely hilarious when Isabell gave us and the grooms a champagne shower. The whole experience had the fun factor.
Many thanks to our hosts and the helpful volunteers who made this an incredible final and a wonderful trip to Omaha. It was Lisa Roskens — a lovely lady — who had the vision to bring the FEI World Cup Finals to Omaha. She made the dream happen.
Keep coughing up
While I’ve been competing abroad I can’t tell you how many riders, trainers and owners have said what a wonderful idea the Hickstead 1,000 Club is, even to the point where some foreign riders have agreed to sign up.
Having seen the list to date, huge thanks to all who have donated. How proud I am of the dressage community; showing the rest of the world it is possible to have an international show all run by volunteers. It is so nice to see so many putting something back into our sport.
I hope the fund will continue to grow to secure the future of this great show. I can, however, see there are some very well-known riders on whose doors I may be knocking.
Ref Horse & Hound; 13 April 2017