Kevin Kohmann Earns Golden Ticket to World Cup™ Final at the 2024 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival

Mar 2, 2024 - 12:20 AM

By Alice Collins for Wellington International 

Kevin Kohmann (USA) rode to the top of the leaderboard in Friday night’s Piaffe Lounge FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix Freestyle during Week 8 and with it booked his place in the World Cup™ Final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in April. The 2024 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF) hosts seven weeks of CDI competition over three months, and runs through March 31.

Kevin Kohmann & Dünensee, winners of the Piaffe Lounge FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix Freestyle Photo ©

The 35-year-old Kohmann, who is enjoying a sterling season with Dünensee, captured the winner’s blanket with 75.07%. Riders in the final block of horses had to contend with heavy rain, but both Susan Dutta (USA) and Ellen McCarthy (GBR) fought their way onto the podium despite the downpour. Dutta rode her and her husband Tim’s 14-year-old Der Designer gelding Don Design DC to 72.8%. McCarthy slotted into third with the youngest horse in the class, her family’s 10-year-old Bordeaux gelding Brave Heart, who posted 71.855%.  

Kevin Kohmann & Dünensee are presented as winners of the Piaffe Lounge FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix Freestyle by Gardo Vincken and Stephanie Horner for Piaffe Lounge, and Mary Anne McPhail for the Palm Beach Derby “Harmony” Trophy. Photo ©

There are three starting spots allocated at the FEI World Cup™ Final to the North American League, and Anna Marek and Ben Ebeling have already bagged two of them. Kohmann now joins that illustrious list and will head to his first World Cup™ Final with his mother-in-law Terri Kane of Diamante Farms’ 15-year-old gelding by Dancier, who has been a boomerang horse in his career. 

“Tonight’s test started off really well with my halt, but then the next movement screwed me and I said to myself ‘Kevin, just ride safe!’ I got a little ahead of the music, but my horse was 100% with me,” said Kohmann. “He really helped me out, so thank you Düne.” 

Susan Dutta & Don Design. Photo ©

The freestyle music is Avicii — Kohmann’s favorite DJ — and includes ‘Wake Me Up’ by Hinterland. He will tweak the floorplan to increase the degree of difficulty in preparation for the Final.

“I put the pressure on me tonight, but it all worked out,” said Kohmann, whose groom German Rodriguez was the recipient of the Massa Horses-sponsored grooms prize of $500. “I can’t believe it. If you had told me this would happen a year ago, I would have said that you’re crazy. It’s a shock to me. I am thrilled and I love this horse.”

German Rodriguez was the recipient of the Massa Horses-sponsored grooms prize of $500 from Denielle Gallagher-Legriffon. Photo ©

Kohmann rode Dünensee as a five-year-old sales horse, and when he returned to the barn almost a decade later, his trainer Cristoph Koschel and his wife Devon Kane persuaded Kohmann that this was the horse for him. He is undecided whether Dünensee will contest another show before the final, but he will now enjoy a well deserved rest. 

Dutta, who was riding in her third Friday Night Stars, said, “I had to warm up in the pouring rain and my horse got a bit tense with that. He also doesn’t like going last because all his friends leave [the warm-up], so that brought a bit of tension too. And then when I went into the arena he was a bit surprised by the camera on the side, so I had to deal with that. So it started off a bit tense, but he was honest and I’m proud of him. A year ago I couldn’t have done this with him.”

Ellen McCarthy & Braveheart. Photo ©

Dutta has recently started training with Jürgen Hoffmann, and they have been focussing on the basics. “It’s a new partnership and I’m very happy with it,” she said. “I’m having a really good time and it’s all about the classical basics; to ride my corners and to have everything really correct and a nicer looking contact and bring my lessons into the arena.”  

On the same day that Ellie McCarthy’s trainer Charlotte Dujardin was on winning form at Lier CDI, the 27-year-old British rider recorded her first podium finish in her first season competing in Wellington. McCarthy was riding Brave Heart, who is only 16hh, to a brand new freestyle with music from the film Kung Fu Panda which she had made specifically for this show. 

“I’m really happy,” she enthused. “It wasn’t my best freestyle score with him but he’s still really green and he’s never seen anything like this. I’ve only had him for two years — he was the first horse I tried at Henri Ruoste’s place in Germany — and before I had him he didn’t do a lot of competing, so he still has to take everything from training and put it in the arena. I fell in love with him straight away and he’s so fun to ride. We had a couple of little wobbles, but he was totally with me.” 

McCarthy is relishing her debut season at AGDF, and hopes to return with a string of horses next year. “I visited last year and knew I wanted to come and do this one day, so I sold a horse to be able to come here. Hopefully I’ll come back next year with more horses,” she concluded.  

Abbelen Retains Her Palm Beach Derby Crown

The popular Palm Beach Derby returned for its 41st anniversary edition on Friday. The exciting knock-out contest pits riders head-to-head to ride a Prix St. Georges on an unfamiliar horse with just five minutes to warm up before tackling the test in the main arena. 

Anna-Christina Abbelen riding A Cappella in the Palm Beach Derby, presented by Buffalo Wild Wings. Photo ©

This year, the ever popular class — which was sponsored by Buffalo Wild Wings — culminated in a tussle between 20-year-old Erin Nichols (USA) and the reigning Palm Beach Derby champion, the 27-year-old German rider Anna-Christina Abbelen. Both athletes emerged victorious from the semi-final knock-out rounds earlier in the evening. 

Kohmann had a hand in this class too, as the mare used for the final leg, Monique Richter’s 13-year-old mare, A Cappella, was produced to grand prix level by him. She was bred in the US by Judy McGaughan, and is being campaigned by Sven Steffens-Smienk this year at small tour. 

Nichols, drawn first, had a tricky ride on the Soprano x Argentinus daughter, scoring 58.383% on her first appearance under the lights. Abbelen stepped into the stirrups and coaxed a 69.081% test from the mare to capture the Howald Pferdekaemper memorial trophy, and successfully defend her title. 

Podium presentation for the Palm Beach Derby, presented by Buffalo Wild Wings. Photo ©

“I’m quite familiar with that breeding and I think that helped,” said Abbelen, who came in off the left rein. “As we have just five minutes, you can’t practice all the transitions, and you have only one walk to canter in the test, so I thought I would try to go around the edge and come in off the left lead too.” 

Nichols said, “I think she [A Cappella] had a bit of an opinion today. She was unsure and I couldn’t give her as much confidence as I would have liked. It was my first time riding under the lights, and my first time riding a test after five minutes.” 

Dressage competition resumes on Saturday. The day’s marquee class, the Grand Prix Special CDI3*, presented by Mission Control, kicks off at 12.45pm, and boasts a start list of 15 combinations. There is also action in Juniors, Young Riders, Amateurs and a CDI1* Intermediate I, sponsored by Blucreeq Spirits. AGDF8, Palm Beach Derby week, wraps up on Sunday. For more information and results, visit

Click for full results from the FEI World Cup™ Grand Prix Freestyle, presented by Piaffe Lounge

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