The conclusion of the 2022 FEI World Championships in Herning, Denmark, saw intense competition in both the Stutteri Ask Stadium jumper arena and the BB Horse Arena para-dressage ring. Along with the competition there was plenty of fun with a large shopping area, many dining and beverage vendors, live music in the food court, a night club for after-hours dancing, educational events, and a “Show Night Saturday” entertainment program.
The Show Night Saturday program included a welcome by the organizers of the Championships, Jens Trabjerg and Casper Cassøe, and a variety of enjoyable at-liberty and under-saddle equestrian acts. The medal ceremony for the Para-Dressage Team World Championships was also featured during Show Night Saturday complete with fireworks and a lap of honor in golf carts around the stadium for the winning team riders.
Friday, August 12 – Jumpers & Para-Dressage Continue
Friday, August 12, was the first day of the para-dressage team championships during the day the second and the final round of the jumper team competition in the evening. The show jumping team class in the main stadium also served to further whittle down the field who would contest the individual jumping finals on Sunday.
It was a bittersweet day for U.S. show jumping fans since the American Team had failed to qualify for the finals the previous day (they finished 11th just one spot out of qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics; they can still qualify at next year’s Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile), yet the outstanding effort the Swedish Team put forth to win gold was nothing short of amazing.
The Swedes finished the day with only 7.69 penalty points well ahead of the silver medal team from the Netherlands who tallied 19.31 points and the British Team who took the bronze with 22.66 points. The Swedish Team members were: Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward; Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Indiana; Peder Fredricson and H&M All In, and Peder’s brother Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit.
Since the Friday show jumping team final round was also another qualifier for the individual finals, the remaining two U.S. riders after Thursday’s class tried their luck around the big, technical course designed by Dutchman Louis Konickx. Going first for the U.S. was Brian Moggre on Ann Thompson’s Balou du Revention. They unfortunately had a difficult time accruing 34 faults which put them far down the list and thus did not move on to the individual finals on Sunday.
Then a few later in the order McLain Ward and his 2021 Tokyo Olympic Team silver-medal partner Contagious, owned by Beechwood Stables LLC, took their turn. After pulling several rails down during the first bit of the course, Ward voluntarily retired realizing that there was no way that they would qualify for the final round and saving the normally spectacular gelding for another day. At the end of the class von Eckermann and King Edward were leading the pack going into the individual finals to be held two days later.
Next door in the BB Horse Arena, the first day of team competition in para-dressage commenced with the Grade IV, II and I Team Tests. First up for the U.S.A. was Kate Shoemaker riding her new Rhinelander mare Quiana. They put in a lovely, flowing Grade IV test to score 75.425% to finish third in the class behind Dutch riders Sanne Voets on Demantur RS2 N.O.P. (78.415%) in first and Demi Haerkins and E.H. Daula (76.024%) in second.
In Grade II, Beatrice de Lavalette and her new ride, the Oldenburg gelding Sixth Sense, turned in a very nice, smooth test to score 73.235% to land them in fourth place behind Denmark’s Katrin Kristensen and Goerklintgaards Quater in first (77.176%), Austria’s Pepo Puch and his long-time partner Sailor’s Blue (75.441%) in second, and Great Britain’s Lee Pearson and Breezer in third (73.529%).
In the Grade I Team Test the reigning Olympic gold medalist from the U.S.A. Roxanne Trunnell guided her new ride of only two months, the young Oldenburg stallion Fortunato H20 owned by Lehua Custer, to fourth place scoring 75.214% The top three in Grade I were: Rihards Snikus and King of the Dance from Latvia in first, 80.393%; Sara Morganti and Royal Delight from Italy, 77.250%, and Michael Murphy and Cleverboy from Ireland, 76.072%.
Since Friday was the first of two days of team competition these individual rider scores counted toward the team total scores, but no individual awards were given for these classes. The para-dressage team competition concluded the next afternoon (on Saturday, August 13) after Grades V and III riders took the turns in the sandbox and then the final scores were tallied.
Saturday, August 13 – Para Team Finals & Jumper Day Off
U.S. Team veteran rider Rebecca Hart and her long-time partner KWPN gelding El Corona Texel owned by Rowan O’ Riley, sailed through a super team test in Grade III to finish in second (74.706%) behind Denmark’s Tobias Thorning Joergensen riding Jolene Hill who scored 79.265%. Great Britain’s Natasha Baker riding Keystone Dawn Chorus filled the third slot in Grade III with 73.676%. Hart’s score put the U.S. Team in strong contention for a team medal, but they had to wait until all riders in Grades III and V completed their tests to know the final results.
The U.S. did not have a rider in the Grade V Team Test. The class winner was Belgium’s Michéle George riding Best of 8 (78.405%) ahead of Great Britain’s Sophie Wells on Don Cara M in second (76.190%) and Frank Hosmar and Alphaville N.O.P. from the Netherlands in third (75.786%). The American Virgin Islands representatives, Lee Frawley and Waldon Wild Skye, finished 17th in the Grade V Team Test and did not qualify for the freestyle class which was held the next day.
Sunday, August 14 – Para-Dressage Freestyles & Individual Jumper Medals
The final day of the 2022 FEI World Championships in Denmark was not short on excitement with all five grades of para-dressage performing their musical freestyle tests and then the finals of the individual show jumping with 21 riders competing in round A and then the top 12 coming back for round B.
In para, American Kate Shoemaker and Quiana competing in Grade IV laid down an entertaining freestyle to music created just for them using the theme from the movie Hook as inspiration. Their dance earned them a personal best of 80.275% and the silver medal behind Sanne Voets and Demantur RS2 N.O.P. in the gold spot (82.485%). Shoemaker was all smiles as she talked about their freestyle, “This is just my third time riding a freestyle in an international class. We had so many goals coming here and a lot of things were out of our control, but this has come together beyond everything I imagined. I am so thankful to my horse and my team who makes it all possible.”
Next on Sunday’s docket was the Grade II Freestyle with U.S. rider Beatrice de Lavalette and Sixth Sense scoring 71.107% (sixth place) for their ride to music from Madagascar, How to Train Your Dragon and Shrek created for them by Marlene Whitaker. The gold in Grade II Freestyle went to Denmark’s Katrin Kristensen and Goerklintgaards Quater (80.354%). De Lavalette said that they had a few bobbles in their freestyle caused by the atmosphere in the arena, “We haven’t seen audiences like this before. As soon as we went in I felt him breathe in and get a little more tense. It is what it is and I am still very happy with the ride. Yesterday winning the team medal―it was my first―I was over the moon. And meeting the princess was really sweet.”
Roxanne Trunnell and Fortunato H2O from the U.S.A. performed a fun Grade I Freestyle to a mix of music from Titanic and Jurassic Park selected by her trainer. They finished fourth overall with a 76.447%. Gold in Grade I Freestyle went to Italy’s Sara Morganti riding Royal Delight (80.653%). “I am very happy. This is only his second competition; it is all new to ‘Tuna.’ He was super,” said Trunnell.
Grade III individual bronze medalists from earlier in the week, American Rebecca Hart and El Corona Texel were poised for another great performance in their freestyle, but the windy conditions and activity around the arena got the best of Tex’s nerves. Several times he spooked at things during their test which caused breaks in their performance and took precious points off their score (72.080% landing them in seventh). “That was very disappointing; I am going to be honest about that. He warmed up really well and he felt good, but we got in there and things were waiving and he just didn’t stay with me and the music. Unfortunately it happened on the world stage. I was happy that I was able to keep him relatively relaxed through that though, because we are working on this new relaxation [technique] and I wanted him to have a good experience in there.”
As the para-dressage wound down the show jumpers began the race for individual medals as the final event of the Herning Championships. Jumping in reverse order of the rankings the top 21 horse and rider combos, representing 13 countries, tackled the 16 jumping efforts including a water jump, a triple and a double. A near-capacity crowd enthusiastically cheered on their favorites.
The top 12 riders after Round A moved into Round B after a course change (Round B included 15 jumping efforts). Round B contestants were: two riders from Germany (Marcus Ehning on Stargold and Jana Wargers on Limbrige); two from Sweden (Henrik von Eckermann on King Edward and Jens Fredricson on Markan Cosmopolit); two from Belgium (Nicola Philippaerts on Katanga von het Dingeshof and Jérôme Guery on Quel Hommede Hus); and one each from Canada (Tiffany Foster on Figor), Switzerland (Martin Fuchs on Leone Jei), France (Simon Delestre on Caymen Jolly Jumper), the Netherlands (Maikel van der Vlueten on Beauville Z N.O.P.), Great Britain (Ben Maher on Faltic HB), and Austria (Max Kühner on Elektric Blue P).
In the end it came down to who had the fewest time faults incurred in the first speed class on Wednesday to separate gold from silver. Both von Eckermann’s foot-perfect King Edward and Guery’s impressive Holsteiner stallion Quel Hommede Hus did not knock any rails in five rounds of jumping during the week, but King Edward had been faster in the speed class (only 0.58 faults total for King Edward as compared to Quel Hommede Hus’ 2.35 in the speed class plus 1 time fault in Round 2 of the team competition). The gold was von Eckermann’s and silver to Gurey with the bronze going to van der Vlueten.
The normally all-business Eckermann shared his relief and excitement on the win, “It a fantastic feeling! I only concentrated on riding. The first round was super and the second round as well. I needed to keep concentrating and I had a very good feeling. I knew I could not afford a fault if I wanted the gold. I have prepared for this for so many years now and to receive this medal was fantastic. King Edward is the world’s best horse, but it is still so easy to make mistakes.”
Parting Thoughts from Denmark
Denmark was a wonderful host for these 2022 FEI Herning World Championships. The facility was lovely and all riders had positive comments about the stabling, warm-up and competition areas. The Championships mascot, “Henri” the horse, was very cute. He made appearances walking around the venue welcoming visitors young and old and entertained in the stadiums during breaks in the action.
Another thing that Herning did better than perhaps any other international championships I’ve ever been to was to recognize the grooms’ contributions to our sport. They even put names and photos of the grooms up on the big screen when their corresponding horses and riders entered the arena!
Although generally the Danes seem to be a bit reserved, the organizers of these championships were quite welcoming while still being very efficient. The volunteers and staff did their best to help and inform. Almost everyone spoke English very well there. The only Danish word I managed to learn was “tak” which means thank you; I said it a lot because there was much to appreciate!
The country is clean and green, both literally and figuratively speaking. The land surrounding the city of Herning is full of natural areas and farmland and it is less than an hour from the North Sea and scenic fjord inlets. Denmark is very into alternative energy use (windmills and electric cars are common) and recycling and upcycling. The Herning Championships highlighted this with an eco-friendly businesses section in their trade fair and in their practices of providing recycling bins everywhere.
They also had a Championships reforestation project planned with trees to be planted around the venue. Within that new forest there will be specific trees with plaques placed in front of them bearing the names and facsimiles of signatures of the gold medal winners from these Championships.
It was uplifting to see the joy of the Danish people as they supported their equestrian teams who did well in three disciplines. They won gold in team dressage (a first for the country), team silver in para-dressage and finished fourth in vaulting squads. Even though their show jumping team only finished 14th, the crowds supported their riders with thunderous applause any time they were in the ring. The home crowds were generous in enthusiastically supported all of the horses and riders from the other countries too.
This concludes the Horse Illustrated coverage of the 2022 FEI World Championships in Herning, Denmark. To see in-depth information for the U.S. competitors, visit US Equestrian’s World Championship hub on their website. For more general information about the Herning Championships, visit their website and download an app to follow the competition.