Dressage Championships: Isabell Werth’s ride from fear to happiness

IAt the European Dressage Championships in Hagen, sabell Werth experienced an emotional rollercoaster that is rare in this controlled sport. No sooner had her annoyance about the irritating marks given by the judges in the team competition subsided, than all this, yes, all the title fights and even winning the team title on Wednesday appeared to be of secondary importance. On the same evening she was urgently called to her Olympic horse Bella Rose, who had colic at home in Rheinberg. The chestnut mare had been brought to the Meerbusch veterinary clinic and had to be operated on.

The most successful rider in the world jumped into the car and hurried to her suffering mare, with whom she has a very special relationship. She calls them her heart horse, and now this heart horse was in mortal danger. “Bella Rose’s case was a particularly severe and painful form of colic, a so-called foramen epicloicum, which no conventional medication would have helped,” said team vet Marc Koene. “An operation was urgently needed and therefore there was no alternative.”

Fortunately, Bella Rose got up quickly after the operation, for which a short incision was sufficient. On Thursday, before the individual decision in the Grand Prix Special took place in Hagen, Isabell Werth went to the clinic for the second time, in the afternoon she was back on the job – she had a video with Bella Rose on her mobile phone, just like her took her first food again. At this point, Isabell Werth had left the old Punch a bit. “It wasn’t the easiest day today,” she said. “And the old fighting spirit wasn’t there either.”

“We started on the way”

But then she got on her black mare Weihegold, this beautiful, reliable, loyal horse, who may not shine as much genius as Bella Rose, but who always delivers brilliant performances when it is asked. Werth thought: Today I just want to enjoy it. And then Weihegold started as if she wanted to make her rider forget her grief. “It started on the way,” she reports, “and I have hidden everything.” She was very grateful to her horse, she said, “that she took me with her.”

Weihegold let her strengths shine in piaffe and passage and did not make a single mistake. With 81.702 percentage points they finished second behind the currently inviolable Olympic champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on Dalera, her golden mare from Tokyo. Her 84.271 percentage points stand out, and it could have been even more without the mistake in the flying gallop changes from jump to jump. The two are celebrating their Olympic form again in Hagen, and it is hard to imagine that they will not win the title in the freestyle on Saturday.

So you will see Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Isabell Werth again in Hagen. And Helen Langehanenberg (Havixbeck) will be able to show her long-legged Holstein mare Annabelle again. After two blunders the day before, which cost a lot of points, she had resolved to pass an error-free test this time, and she succeeded. She got 75.228 percentage points from the seven judges and was eleventh ahead of her internal competitor Dorothee Schneider from Framersheim with her replacement horse Faustus in 14th place – her Olympic crack Showtime was canceled at short notice. Since only three pairs per nation are allowed to take part in the freestyle, their 74.802 percentage points were no longer enough to advance.

Disagreed judges

This time, too, the seven judges – as criticized by Werth the day before – made strikingly different assessments. With Helen Langehanenberg the range ranged from 72 to 77 percentage points, with Dorothee Schneider from 71 to 77 and with other riders it was even greater – for a title fight with international class riders it was downright unworthy fluctuations.

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“Judging is not my part,” said Helen Langehanenberg with a shrug of the sensitive topic. And Dorothee Schneider had other things on her mind, namely big plans for 13-year-old Faustus. She wanted to get to the bottom of the mistakes he made in the passage, she said. To fix it, of course. “If we manage to take this step, then he will have everything a championship horse needs.” Not even the fact that the good Faustus stepped on her right foot the day before at the team award ceremony could not dampen her joy. The foot is blue. “But I can walk again,” she said cheerfully.

So there will be no big farewell to Bella Rose at the glamorous CHIO in Aachen next week. The 17-year-old mare, with whom Werth became world and European champion and won individual silver and team gold at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, has already had a dramatic medical history and will still be convalescent. That even her farewell cannot go without a health drama seems almost typical for the fragile diva Bella Rose.

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