By Louise Parkes

A year ago, Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour rode the up-and-coming Bohemian to victory in both the Grand Prix and Freestyle at the opening leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2020/2021 Western European League. With the pandemic biting hard, the event was staged at the Danish National Equestrian Centre in Vilhelmsborg instead of its traditional venue in Herning, and it would be one of just two legs to be held before the series had to be abandoned as the world ground to a halt.

This Saturday, 23 October, the action returns to Herning for the opening round of the 2021/2022 season which includes nine qualifying legs in total. And this time Dufour will ride Atterupgaards Cassidy, the wonderful little chestnut gelding whose last big international win was at the penultimate leg of the 2019/2020 Western European League in Gothenburg, Sweden in February 2020.

It was the second successive FEI World Cup™ victory at the Scandinavium Arena for the sensational pair who, in 2017, exploded onto the world stage when taking bronze in both the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle at the FEI European Championships. That day, Dufour paid tribute to the brilliant little chestnut gelding that has brought her right to the very pinnacle of the sport.

“I’ve had him 10 years now and he’s really special for me and my family. I think I owe this horse everything – he kind of created my career and I am really truly enjoying every time I ride down the centreline”

Cathrine Dufour (DEN)

she said. He’s 18 this year and still in flying form, so she’s bringing him out again this week for what she says may be one of his last shows.

Host nation

The host nation contingent for this first qualifier of the new season includes all the Danish dressage athletes who lined out at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in August where the team finished just off the podium and where Dufour also finished fourth individually with Bohemian.

Carina Cassøe Krüth (Heiline’s Danciera) and Nanna Skodberg Merrald (Blue Hors Zack) will partner their Tokyo rides as will Charlotte Heering (Bufranco) who was reserve athlete at the Games, and they will be joined by Anna Kasprzak (Rock Star 13) and Lone Bang Larsen (Thranegaardens Rostov) when flying the home flag.

However Germany is more than well-represented by horsewoman extraordinaire Ingrid Klimke (Franziskus 15), Helen Langehanenberg (Annabelle 110) and Frederic Wandres (Hot Hit 3) on the startlist.

Klimke is a five-time Olympian and multiple champion in the sport of Eventing, and was vying for selection in both Eventing and Dressage for the Tokyo Games until an accident earlier this year saw that dream shattered. Now well-recovered, and just weeks after taking team silver and individual fifth place at the FEI Eventing European Championships 2021 in Avenches, Switzerland, she brings the 13-year-old dressage stallion Franziskus with which she won the Grand Prix at Dortmund CDI4* in March 2020. Three months earlier the pair finished second to compatriots Isabell Werth and Frederic Wandres in the Grand Prix and the Special on home ground at Stuttgart, and there will be many eyes following their progress at the Danish fixture this weekend.

Langehanenberg has competed at five FEI Dressage World Cup™ Finals and scooped the title with the great Damon Hill NRW in 2013.

Qualifying points

Dutch riders on the lookout for early-season qualifying points towards the series Final which will take place in Leipzig, Germany next April are Marlies van Baalen (Go Legend), Vincent van Gasselt (Delacroix 11) and Thamar Zweistra (Hexagon’s Double Dutch).

Sweden’s Patrik Kittel always creates a stir, and he competes this weekend with Fiontini, the 11-year-old Danish-bred mare that won gold at the FEI WBFSH World Championships for Young Dressage Horses in 2015, 2016 and 2017 with Spain’s Severo Jurado Lopez in the saddle. Owner, Denmark’s Andreas Helgstrand, took over the ride in 2020 and recently passed the mare on to Kittel to compete.

The new pairing finished third in the Grand Prix and fourth in the Freestyle at CDIO5* Aachen (GER) last month, and there is great excitement about what lies ahead for them. Also lining out for Sweden are Jeanna Hogberg (Lorenzo), Jennie Larsson (Zircoon Spring Flower) and Jacob Noerby Soerensen (Sheeran).

The FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2021/2022 series will move on to Lyon (FRA) at the end of the month and then to Madrid (ESP) in November. Legs in London (GBR) and Mechelen (BEL) will bring the year to an end in December and then Amsterdam (NED) gets things underway again in January. Neumunster (GER) and Gothenburg (SWE) will host legs in February while ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) will present the last qualifying opportunity in early March.

It’s all about to get underway with the Grand Prix taking place at the Jyske Bank Boxen Arena in Herning this Friday at 19.00 local time and the points-deciding Freestyle on Saturday at 18.30.

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