Lottie Fry and Dark Legend complete their first FEI Dressage World Cup Final

Thursday, 07 April 2022

This evening, the FEI Dressage World Final, taking place in the German city of Leipzig, reached its climax with the Freestyle competition. A total of 17 combinations came forward, all having competed on Thursday in the Short Grand Prix test, and all had their dancing shoes on in the hopes to wow the judges. Great Britain’s sole representatives, Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Fry with Van Olst Horses and her own Dark Legend, were the last combination in before the first break.

Dark Legend might not as flashy or fiery as some of the stallions that Lottie trains and competes in her role as stable rider for Van Olst Horses, but he can get tense in the bigger atmospheres such as the one in Leipzig this week and, unfortunately, that side of him came out tonight. The pair hadn’t even entered the arena before something at C had him spooking and spinning – possibly the newly uncovered seating, which had been shrouded with drapes during Thursday’s Short Grand Prix test. Lottie took a moment to settle him with pats and reassurance, and then the music began.

Sadly, that initial spook set the tone for their test. There was a wobble in the pirouette on their first centre line, followed by a big spook going into the following zig-zag and, upon reaching C, Dark Legend decided it was time to head for the exit. Lottie showed all her tact and skill by simply gathering him up and moving onto the next phase of their test, and the dark bay gelding seemed to draw confidence from his rider. While still tense, the piaffe and passage section was much more settled and the marks started to pick up again as they continued through the floorplan, with Lottie pushing for every one she could and producing some lovely moments.

However, it was a case of too little, too late, and big discrepancies in the judges’ scores – including a two and a seven for one rather unsettled canter pirouette – kept the trending marks stubbornly below 70%. Lottie still gave her trademark beaming smile and offered plenty of pats for her dance partner after their final salute, but it would be fair to say that this wasn’t the result that she would have wanted for her first World Cup Final.

The many discrepancies meant there was an agonising wait for the final score, but it was finally announced as 67.550% – putting Lottie and Dark Legend into 17th place. While this result might not have been representative of what this combination can do together, tonight certainly won’t be the last time we see Lottie at a World Cup Final and she’ll most certainly come back fighting.

Final results

It was an emotional night for Germany’s Isobel Werth, three-time consecutive winner of the World Cup title with Weihegold OLD – this was to be the pair’s last test together, with the 17-year-old black mare being officially retired at the conclusion of the competition. Their final centre line was set to Sarah Brightman lyrics of ‘win or lose, it’s a matter of honour’They had a standing ovation as they left the arena, following a polished test that rocketed them into the lead with a score of 85.921%.

Cathrine Dufour has really showed the depth of her string this week, bringing the young but very talented 10-year-old Vamos Amigos to Germany to contest the World Cup Final. The pair danced to the Les Miserables floorplan that Cathrine used with Bohemian at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, and the bay gelding showed all the promise of what he could go on to achieve in the next few years. Their score of 86.164% pushed them past Isobel and Weihegold OLD, putting Denmark firmly on the podium with one more combination still to go.

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB were always the combination to beat in Leipzig, and nobody was able to catch them tonight. The last combination into the arena, they pulled off another beautiful rendition of their gold medal-winning floorplan from Tokyo, which is set to music from La La Land. This will be the last time we see the two of them compete for a while, due to Jessica being five months pregnant with her second child – meaning that she’ll miss out on the opportunity of adding a Worlds title to her collection this summer – and they certainly left nothing on the table. Their massive score of 90.836% gave Germany its first World Cup win on home soil since the competition’s inception in 1986.

Coming up

The FEI World Cup Final action doesn’t end here. Tomorrow, the winner of the jumping competition will be decided – Great Britain’s Harry Charles currently sits in third place, Jack Whitaker in ninth and John Whitaker in 11th, so there's still all to play for when competition gets underway at 13:45 BST. 

All start lists and results for the FEI World Cup Final series are available here.