WELLINGTON, Fla.--Germany's Frederic Wandres on Bluetooth OLD won for the sixth time, this in the CDI5* Grand Prix Freestyle which was held in the International Arena at Wellington International on Friday, March 17.
This show during week 10 marks a change of venue for the five-star classes at the Global Dressage Festival.
Wandres scored 82.31% as the penultimate combination in the class to win, with all five judges having him as the winner.
Sarah Tubman placed second with 77.58% ride on First Apple, and Ashley Holzer was third on Valentine with 76.295%.
Wandres included movements of high degree of difficulty, riding 19 one-time changes on a curving line to a new 80s music compilation. Bluetooth was secure in the piaffe fans and the passage half-passes, which are both optional elements of a freestyle, but add to the degree of difficulty.
“Six out of six is really amazing,” said a delighted Wandres, who rides for Bluetooth’s owner, Hof Kasselmann. “It shows that the horse and I have improved a lot. We started already high, and it’s not so easy over three months to keep the level that high — you have to keep the horses happy and sound — and they’re not used to the heat.”
BLUETOOTH had an easy period after the World Cup qualifier in AGDF 8, and Wandres felt he had benefited from the break.
“He was very fresh in the Grand Prix and I had a super feeling,” said the delighted 35-year-old. “He’s very with me during the tests. Even though there were a lot of spectators, he was very focused and with me."
“You can always take the experience that you get here back with you to Europe and show how you have improved,” he said. “So I am looking to do that for sure and carry the results and experience into the European dressage arenas.”
Tubman was especially pleased with First Apple’s piaffe, which has been a little tricky in the past, during their Terry Ciotti Gallo-made freestyle. This was also her debut five-star show.
“We have been using the freestyle to help build Apple’s confidence,” she said. “I can set the test up so it’s the best for him. Tonight I think was some of my best piaffe I’ve had in the ring and he felt super reliable. He’s a showman – he loves the lights; the more people and the more noise, the better. I was really happy to feel honest energy with relaxation.
“We’re also really excited to take what we’ve learned over the season to Europe this summer. I’m pretty new at this in this big ring; this is my first five-star, so it’s a bucket list item to be sitting here with these guys.”
“This is a really challenging venue for Valentine, and she was a little tense in the beginning, but I think the last centerline with the piaffe and passage was amazing,” Holzer said. “She was feeling really energetic and forward. I’m excited that she’s able to come to these atmospheres now and cope. It’s been a bit of a challenge, so the more I can do it the better she gets as far as confidence is concerned. It’s great to have these venues in America.”
In the CDI5* Grand Prix Special, Morgan Barbançon credited her victory to a tactical ride and an SOS call to her trainer in England, Gareth Hughes.
Barbançon, who formerly rode for Spain before switching nationalities to represent France, returned to winning ways with Habana Libre A after a sub-par performance in the qualifying Grand Prix, where they finished third.
The penultimate competitor in the class, which was also held at Wellington International under a stunning dusk sky, 30-year-old Barbançon scored 72%, edging out Germany’s rising star, the 22-year-old Felicitas Hendricks on Drombusch 2 with 71.532%.
The winner of the qualifying Grand Prix, Pablo Gómez Molina of Spain finished just behind, third with 71.043% on Javier Bacariza.
“Wednesday was a new arena and Habana’s first time under the lights, so I had to push a bit too much and that’s when I get mistakes,” said Barbançon. “Today I decided to ride a very conservative test because if we are fault free then he automatically gets between a seven and an eight."
“Passage is our strong point, so I was really focusing on that," she said. "The piaffe was still a bit shy and not enough steps, but I came here to Wellington to give him as much experience and mileage as possible. I am not reaching out for big scores at the moment. He needs to understand that in there, it’s ok. I tried to ride a little bit smart today."
“I’m so proud of Habana tonight after Wednesday; he really kept it together,” said the Swiss-based rider. “I’ve been training with Gareth for a year now, and he’s helped me a bunch recently. Two weeks ago, the show really didn’t go well and both Havana and I had a huge loss of confidence, so I called Gareth ‘SOS!’ and he found the time for me. We did some sessions on the Pivo system and that really helped.”
After the final week of AGDF 2023, Barbançon will head back to Europe with Habana, whom she rates extremely highly.
“He is the best horse I ever rode. He has everything — no weak points. It’s just a matter of fine-tuning everything.”