Isabell Werth puts on brave face to win medals in Hagen as her top horse Bella Rose undergoes colic surgery

  • Isabell Werth could be forgiven for having other things on her mind at the European Dressage Championships after it transpired that her top horse, Bella Rose, had just undergone colic surgery.

    The 17-year-old Belissimo mare Bella Rose, Isabell’s European champion from 2019, who won team gold and individual silver at the Tokyo Olympics, had colic and was rushed into surgery the night before, while Isabell was riding Weihegold OLD to a team gold medal for Germany in Hagen.

    “Yesterday I got a call from home to say that she’s colicking, so I was really nervous,” said Isabell, who has has frequently described Bella Rose as her horse of a lifetime and her “dream horse”.

    “In the evening we had to ring the clinic; with this type of colic they have to operate as something was in the wrong position. It’s bad luck, and not a typical colic situation – they had to operate at the right time.

    “I was so happy that I was riding in the evening when Bella Rose had woken up. This morning, she was allowed to eat her first grass, and she looked really good, like normal. She needs to be [at the clinic] for a few days then if everything stays normal we can bring her back in a few days,” continued Isabell, after winning individual silver in the grand prix special this evening (9 September).

    “I am so happy and thankful to the vets that they operated on her at the right time,” she added.

    Aged just 10, Bella Rose and Isabell competed at the 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG), where they posted 81.53% in the grand prix to finish second to Valegro. But then the mare was withdrawn from the rest of the Games due to an injury.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 would ever return to compete at the top level. But in 2018, return she did, dazzling the dressage world with her performance at WEG in Tryon, USA, winning team gold with Germany, and being crowned individual champions too. The repeated the feat at the Rotterdam Europeans the following year, and added more medals this summer in Tokyo.

    The mare had been due to make one final competitive appearance before being retired, at Aachen CHIO later this month, but this will now be thrown into doubt.

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