World number one horse retires after Tokyo Olympics team gold and individual silver

  • Germany’s Isabell Werth revealed after winning the Olympic individual silver medal that her “dream horse” Bella Rose 2 will now retire from competition, aged 17.

    The Westphalian Belissimo M x Cacir II mare, who is the reigning world and European champion having won double gold in 2018 and 2019, will not be seen at future competitions, but may now be used for breeding.

    Bella Rose 2’s career has been one filled with triumph and also heartbreak. Aged just 10, she and Isabell competed at the 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG), where they posted 81.53% in the grand prix to finish second to Valegro in Normandy. But then, disaster struck, and the mare was withdrawn from the rest of the Games due to an injury.

    What followed was four years away from the sport during which no one, including Isabell, could be sure Bella Rose 2 would ever return to compete at the top level. But in 2018, return she did, dazzling the dressage world with a dream performance at WEG in Tryon, USA, winning team gold with Germany, and being crowned individual champions too.

    She and Isabell went on to repeat the feat at the European Championships in 2019, and already had set her eye on winning the Olympic title in Tokyo – which had remained beyond Isabell’s grasp since Atlanta in 1996.

    Bella Rose retires: her final freestyle

    It was not quite to be – a score just shy of 90% left them in silver at the Tokyo Olympics behind Isabell’s compatriot Jessica von Bredow-Werndl. This Olympic Games has been the first time Bella Rose 2 has been beaten since the 2014 WEG, but Isabell was delighted with the freestyle performance that she later said was the mare’s last.

    “Bella felt fantastic tonight,” said Isabell, who rode to her familiar, yet ever stirring, medley of operatic classics from the likes of Beethoven and Verdi. “When you are able to show what you wanted to show, and there is nothing better to present, then I’m satisfied. She was close, but not quite close enough.”

    The emotion in Isabell’s face was clear to see as she rode her final rousing centre line, one-handed, with Bella Rose 2 performing her heart out in a complex piaffe-passage pattern. They posted 95.89% for the artistic score, and a 83.43% technical mark, producing a final score of 89.66%.

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