Reaching a championship like the FEI Dressage World Cup Final usually involves a partnership with a horse developed over many years – but not so for Sweden’s Patrik Kittel, who is in Leipzig riding a horse he has only ever taken to one previous show.
Unlike Isabell Werth for example, who has partnered her mare Weihegold OLD at top level for eight years, or Britain’s Lottie Fry, who has trained Dark Legend since he was a youngster, Patrik only took over the ride on Blue Hors Zepter in December 2021, and the World Cup Final is just his second show on the 14-year-old son of Blue Hors Zack. The pair made their debut outing together just a few weeks ago in Neumünster, Germany, with new FEI rules meaning horses only must compete in one World Cup qualifier to be eligible to compete at the final, as long as their rider has qualified.
Luckily, neither Patrik nor Zepter are new to the game – Patrik is one of the world’s most experienced grand prix riders, while Zepter was ridden very successfully at top level by Daniel Bachmann Andersen between 2018 and early 2020, before Daniel left his job at the Blue Hors stud. Patrik says he “loved Blue Hors Zepter since I saw him with Daniel many years ago”, but what does it take to perform at this level with a horse you barely know? After all, dressage is all about the bond forged between horse and rider, so what is it like coming to an event like the World Cup Final on a new horse?
“It is quite nerve-wracking,” admits Patrik, following his 74.66% short grand prix in Leipzig, which left him in seventh. “The horse knows this, I know this, but we still have to be together as a combination. I have to say, to go in and do what he did today was very impressive. Once we have done a couple more shows he will be better and better and then we will really climb up the ladder I think.
“The horse is a sweetheart and I love riding him. I know that with horses, from the experience I have had that if they want to do it and they are with you they will get better, the percentage will get higher and eventually you will reach the top where you want to be, but you don’t do that in one show. You don’t do that in two shows; you do that in 10 shows. That’s where you know how much you need to warm up, how much you need to walk, how much to do of everything.”
Patrik explains that here in Leipzig, compared to in Neumünster, he has been doing more walking with Zepter in his warm-up and training sessions, and it seems to be paying off.
“It’s about constantly doing different things – trial and error,” he explained.
While Patrik has high hopes for Zepter, it is the 10-year-old Qatarback gelding Touchdown with whom he is targeting the dressage World Championships later this year in Herning, Denmark. The pair have been on great form, recently winning the grand prix at the Doha CDI5*.
“Touchdown has everything to be in the top five in Herning. I love that horse, he is unbelievable to ride,” says Patrik.
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