Hendricks Claims Individual Freestyle Nations Cup Gold Medal with Almost 80% in AGDF 7

Feb 24, 2024 - 12:30 AM

By Alice Collins for Wellington International 

Germany’s 23-year-old prodigy Felicitas Hendricks extended her unbeaten run of tests on Drombusch OLD to six when she claimed the individual gold medal in the Stillpoint Farm FEI Nations Cup CDIO3* Grand Prix Freestyle. Sweden’s seven-time Olympic legend Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén claimed silver on Devanto, with Frederic Wandres (GER) picking up the bronze riding Total Recall.

Felicitas Hendricks & Drombusch OLD, winners of the Stillpoint Farm FEI Nations Cup CDIO3* Grand Prix Freestyle. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

The reworked Nations Cup is the centerpiece of week seven of the 2024 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) in Wellington, FL. AGDF, which hosts seven weeks of CDI competition over three months, runs through March 31. 

Under the floodlights of the atmospheric ‘Friday Night Stars’ evening session in the Equestrian Village International Arena, Hendricks and Drombusch’s routine to lively, upbeat disco music garnered them 79.1%. It is their highest senior Grand Prix Freestyle score. As Hendricks brought the 13-year-old Destano gelding in to land on the final centerline, the knowledgeable and vocal audience clapped along, adding even more spring to Drombusch’s final piaffe.  

The Stillpoint Farm FEI Nations Cup CDIO3* Grand Prix Freestyle podium with Felicitas Hendricks, Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén and Frederic Wandres with Tuny Page of Stillpoint Farm and Judge at C, Mike Osinski. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

“This still feels unreal — I’m definitely not getting used to it,” said Hendricks, who trains with her uncle Cristoph Koschel. “I’m very grateful to have a horse that wants to do it every single time and he never disappoints. He’s always ready to go and today was one of the best feelings I’ve had in the ring so far. He was super fresh — which I think you could see in the extended canter, but I couldn’t help smiling about it because I want him to be fresh and happy.

“We wanted fun party music for Drombusch, so I chose music my mum used to dance to in the club. Every time I listen to it I fall in love with it even more. He’s not just my show partner, he’s also my best friend in daily life,” added Hendricks, whose groom Lauren McNabb was once again the recipient of the Massa Horses-sponsored $500 Grooms Award. 

Luren McNabb is presented with the Massa Horses Grooms Award by Vincent Massa and Denielle Gallagher. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

Despite having competed at AGDF every year for over a decade, Vilhelmson Silfvén was still impressed by the atmosphere on Friday night. She rode Lovsta Stuteri’s 15-year-old De Chirico gelding Devanto to 77.415%.

“What an atmosphere tonight!” said Vilhelmson Silfvén, who rode to her well known ‘Puttin’ on the Ritz’ freestyle, with an adapted floorplan. “It was electric and Devanto felt that too. He was eager to go when he got in, I had to manage to control everything, but I got a super feeling from that, so it was fun to ride. The Friday nights are a super opportunity to ride in a championship atmosphere. It’s such good practice and amazing to ride here on Friday nights — even though it’s not always easy.”

Tinne Vilhelmsen Silfvén & Devanto. Photo ©SusanJStickle.com

From last draw Wandres used his experience to guide the 12-year-old Total Recall — the youngest horse in the class — to 77.08%, and the bronze medal. The gelding by Totilas is owned by Australian Jemma Heran, and Wandres borrowed the horse just to compete in the Nations Cup. Judge at C, Mike Osinski, awarded the pair their high score of 81.175%. 

Wandres said, “I had fun! I wasn’t fighting for a team place or anything so, there was no pressure on this ride, and I think the horse had fun too. I think the horse has a lot of talent for the collected work, the piaffe/passage so he can show even better than he did tonight, but it was his first time.” 

Frederic Wandres & Total Recall. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

He rode to a freestyle soundtrack that he has previously used for his top horses Bluetooth and Duke of Britain. The floorplan carries the maximum degree of difficulty of 10.

Arlène ‘Tuny’ Page of Stillpoint Farm has been a long-time sponsor of the Nations Cup at AGDF. She said, “This is a fabulous event and everyone in town supports it. I feel lucky that early on we were able to identify the Nations Cup as the event that we wanted to choose. I’m all about team sports and it feels more like a team than any other competition, so that’s special.”

A remarkable comeback

Only four combinations contested the CDI3* Grand Prix Freestyle, presented by Buffalo Wild Wings, but first-to-go Yvonne Losos De Muñiz put down an unassailable marker of 75.235% to ensure it was the Dominican Republic’s anthem that rang out in the prize-giving. The result marked the culmination of a remarkable comeback for the now 19-year-old Aquamarijn. The mare by United tore a muscle in her hindleg backing off a trailer in the summer of 2022 and Losos De Muñiz rehabbed her with gymnastic exercises in the field. The therapies were so effective that she decided to bring her back to the competition ring.

Yvonne Losos De Muñiz & Aquamarijn, winners of the CDI3* Grand Prix Freestyle, presented by Buffalo Wild Wings. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

Monica Burssens (MEX) on Elfentanz and Micaela Mabragaña (ARG) on Bradley Cooper both scored 70.21%, but Burssens’ higher artistic score gave her second place, handing third to Mabragaña. 

“I’ve never had a ride like that with her,” said an emotional Losos De Muñiz, who has been competing Aquamarijn at grand prix level for eight years. “I got her through the grand prix but she was dragging me around and wouldn’t listen. Every time I go in there, I don’t know what I’m going to have — I’ve never had the same ride twice. Tonight she said, ‘Yes ma’am, how much do you want and how high do you want it?’ She was amazing.”

Yvonne Losos De Muñiz & Aquamarijn are presented as winners of the CDI3* Grand Prix Freestyle, presented by Buffalo Wild Wings, by Dr. Diane Fellows and Judge at C, Christof Umbach. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

Of Aquamarijn’s recovery, Losos De Muñiz added, “We were just trying to get her well enough to retire her, so we were playing with all these gymnastic things, like poles to teach her to use the other muscles, so we restructured the muscles. She liked it so much that we decided to keep going with her, and she sometimes moves better now than she did before. To be here compared to where we were a year ago, it’s totally unfathomable. She’s 19 going on five; she’s got more energy and life and character to her now than she ever did.”

The pair look set to represent the Dominican Republic at the Paris Olympics this summer, and will fly to Europe in April to prepare. It will likely be the mare’s swan song. 

From the 16 starters in the Prix St. Georges CDI1*, sponsored by Zen Elite Equestrian, Canada’s Naima Moreira Laliberte’s international debut on Jaliska LD vanquished all. The 27-year-old rider piloted Jaliska LD, by the Ampere son All At Once, to 73.48%.

Naima Moreira Laliberte & Jaliska LD, winners of the Prix St. Georges CDI1*, sponsored by Zen Elite Equestrian. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

Both the second and third placed riders posted new career high scores with their horses. Jennifer Williams (USA) laid down 71.323% on her own Bordeaux nine-year-old gelding, Babylon Berlin. Right behind them, at their second ever CDI, her compatriot Quinn Iverson and King’s Pleasure slotted into third. The nine-year-old Dark Pleasure stallion owned by Heidi Humphries of class sponsor Zen Elite Equestrian notched up 71.226%. 

Laliberte was riding Jaliska LD, who is a 10-year-old KWPN mare owned by KML Inc. This was just the mare’s third Prix St. Georges test.  

Naima Moreira Laliberte & Jaliska LD are presented as winners of the Prix St. Georges CDI1*, sponsored by Zen Elite Equestrian by Endel Otts and Judge at C, Christof Umbach. Photo © SusanJStickle.com

“The first time I sat on her as a four-year-old I thought, ‘Either she’s going to kill me or we’re going to be amazing’ — it was so much power, something I hadn’t really felt before in a young horse,” said Laliberte. “You don’t want to rush horses like that because you need that power through the levels, and for a grand prix horse — and it’s a quality I look for. 

“We really had to take our time with her. When we got her she lacked a lot of confidence in life towards certain environments and triggers. So we went back to Kindergarten to desensitize her and show her things and make her walk on tarps. Things like that are so important when they’re young — I like to do that with all the young horses,” added the 27-year-old Laliberte, who bought the horse from Alice Tarjan. “She’s very low mileage, but she’s such a sweet girl.”

Laliberte is from Montreal, where her family has a farm, but she has spent the majority of the past two years training in Spain with Jordi Domingo and in Florida with Ashley Holzer. She has four horses with her in Wellington this season, and has an eye on a Canadian team place for the Paris Olympics.

Dressage resumes on Saturday, February 24, with the day’s headline class, the Stillpoint Farm FEI Nations Cup Grand Prix Special CDIO3*, kicking off at 3.45pm, right after the CDI3* Grand Prix Special, which starts at 1.05pm. Competition also includes Young Riders, Juniors, a CDI1* Intermediate I, a CDI2* Intermediate A and extensive action in the national arenas. For more information and results, visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.

Click for full results from the Stillpoint Farm FEI Nations Cup CDIO3* FEI Grand Prix Freestyle

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