Anna-Christina Abbelen Caps 2024 Season with Freestyle Victory in Final ‘Friday Night Stars’ of 2024 AGDF

Mar 30, 2024 - 10:37 AM

By Alice Collins for Wellington International

The best was saved until last in the Lövsta Stuteri CDI4* Grand Prix Freestyle, the final ‘Friday Night Stars’ freestyle class under lights of the 2024 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF). From final draw, Germany’s Anna-Christina Abbelen jumped to the top of the leaderboard with an energetic performance on the evergreen 17-year-old Sam Donnerhall. AGDF 2024, which hosts seven weeks of CDI competition over three months, concludes on March 31.

Anna-Christina Abbelen & Sam Donnerhall, winners of the Lövsta Stuteri CDI4* Grand Prix Freestyle. Photo ©

Abbelen’s high score with Sam Donnerhall of 77.375% came from the judge at M, Maarten Van Der Heijden, but it was extremely close between the top two. Trailing Abbelen by just 0.045 percentage points — and placed first by four of the five judges — came dressage juggernaut and Sweden’s seven-time Olympian, Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén. She and the 15-year-old Esperance (by Sorento OLD x Harmony’s Rousseau), in just the stallion’s fourth big tour CDI, scored 75.86%. Charlotte Jorst (USA) and the 11-year-old Zhaplin Langholt — the youngest horse in the class — put down a new combination best score of 74.375% to finish third. 

Abbelen is tremendously grateful for all the lessons and experiences that Sam Donnerhall has facilitated for her over the past four years. At 17, the gelding by Samarant x Donnerhall was the oldest horse in the class, and she is carefully considering his future. 

Anna-Christina Abbelen & Sam Donnerhall,are presented as winners of the Lövsta Stuteri CDI4* Grand Prix Freestyle by Antonia Ax:son Johnson. Photo ©

“At every show he keeps getting fresher and fresher,” she grinned. “Today he was really on his peak. The floorplan is quite difficult, and the feeling was actually really good, especially in the passage and the piaffe. And the whole canter tour was mistake-free. But due to his freshness the first halt, which is usually a strong part, was not really good.

“At the very end, in the music I put in a little thank you to my horse because this was maybe my last show with him. I don’t know. But he’s at his strongest at the moment and he’s so fresh and I learned everything from him,” she added. “I did so many great five-star shows with him and learned a lot. I thought if this was a really good one today, then I’d be happy to say that maybe I’ll just do smaller shows, or even just ride him at home. I owe him everything,” added the 27-year-old, who had grooming help from Lars Ligus, who was awarded the Massa Horses Groom’s Prize of $500.

Vilhelmson Silfvén rode Esperance at AGDF in 2017 at small tour, but the horse was dogged by injuries and only did three CDI shows over the following four years. He is now back with a bang, and this was the horse’s first experience of the atmospheric ‘Friday Night Stars’. 

Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén & Esperance. Photo ©

“This was his first show in one and a half years and only his second freestyle ever,” she explained. “I’m so proud of him. I’m still speechless because he was such a star. He didn’t care about anything in there. I used music that I made for Paridon Magi, but I redid the floorplan this week to make it a little bit easier because I had no idea how he would be in there.”

Vilhelmson Silfvén, who also won the CDI4* Grand Prix the previous day with another horse in her string, Hyatt, will fly back to Europe after the conclusion of this year’s AGDF to prepare for a summer of European competitions.

Jorst was riding to new music put together specifically for Zhaplin Langholt (by Glock’s Zonik x Stedinger). The soundtrack had a strong patriotic twist. 

Charlotte Jorst & Zhaplin Langhold. Photo ©

“I came here from Denmark when I was 23 and I think a lot of times we forget all the freedom and all the great things that we have in this country,” she explained. “I’m really grateful to be an American and I want to express that.

“For a horse like that, who is so young and only did his first grand prix a few months ago, and I’m so grateful to have had this show circuit to really make him a grand prix horse. He always gives me a good feeling and I’m so proud of the way he looks; he’s just a great type for me.”

For Judge William Warren the night was bittersweet. “There’s a bit of melancholy as this is the last show of Global, but then to have three really top quality horses and riders made for a very fun evening,” he said. “I’ve judged all of them before and watched their progression. Everybody’s music and choreography was spot on, creative, complicated and appropriate.”   

Dressage competition in week 12 resumes on Saturday, March 30, with both the CDI3* and CDI4* Grand Prix Special classes. There is also action in Young Riders, young horses, amateurs and Under-25s, as well as at all levels in the national rings this weekend. AGDF 2024 wraps up on Sunday. AGDF 2025 will kick off in the new year, with week one slated for January 8-12. For more information, results and to watch the live stream, visit the Global Dressage Festival website.

Click for full results from all classes in AGDF 12.

Categories: News, Press Releases

Social Bar

Shopping Cart

Like Box

Most Popular

Like Box

Rider Spotlight

Charity Spotlight

Horse Spotlight

Trainer Spotlight