Swedish dressage rider Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic added a brilliant victory in Saturday’s Gold Coast Opener Grand Prix Freestyle CDI-W to their win in Friday’s Grand Prix CDI-W, at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in Wellington, Florida.
The pair of strong showings establishes them as top contenders in this weekend’s World Dressage Masters (WDM) CDI5* Palm Beach.
WDM will be far from a walkover, however. Kittel and Watermill Scandic will go up against many of the top-placed pairs from Saturday’s competition, as well as an array of new challengers that includes Steffen Peters, Edward Gal, and Hans Peter Minderhoud. But Kittel and Scandic impressed both the judges and the crowd with their stirring freestyle routine.
They performed to an assortment of upbeat rock tunes, displaying impeccable passage transitions to “Hot in the City.” “I think it’s one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in the piaffe/passage,” Kittel said. Although “Dancing With Myself” was also among the musical selections, Kittel and Scandic danced together in complete harmony through rhythmic one-tempis and a striking canter half-pass. The judges awarded them a score of 80.125%.
As well as remarking on Watermill Scandic’s “unbelievable” piaffe/passage transitions, Kittel praised the horse’s desire to perform. “They have to fight with you when you are competing,” Kittel said. “And he’s one of these fighters. That’s what I love with him. He never gives up. He’s just always trying, always wanting to please the rider, and I think that is one of his best characteristics.”
Adrienne Lyle and Wizard also delivered a strong effort, overcoming a few errors in the walk and one-tempis to place second with 75.775%. They kept perfectly in time with the music throughout, showing off an energetic canter half-pass to “You Can Leave Your Hat On” and bounding through bold extensions to “Soul Man.” “I think we had a lot of fun,” Lyle said. “He loves his freestyle. He likes it a little too much sometimes!”
As she prepares Wizard for the WDM freestyle, Lyle plans to “get him a little more tired” so that he will be more relaxed in the ring. “He was a little bit amped up in there, so we had a couple little mistakes because of tension.”
Lyle’s coach, Debbie MacDonald, was happy with the pair’s placing. “I’m just very proud of her. I think she held it together, and she was on a horse that looked like a time bomb. But again, the judges really love that edge, if you can maintain it. And that’s the key – if you can maintain it.”
Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfven and Divertimento‘s effortless freestyle placed them just behind Lyle in third, with a score of 74.525%. “It was his second freestyle,” Vilhelmsson-Silfven said, “so I’m really pleased with him. He got a bit tense with the music since he’s not really used to it. But he’s learning.”
At WDM, Vilhelmsson-Silfven will trade Divertimento for her Olympic mount, Don Auriello. She described Don Auriello as a “showman” who enjoys an electric atmosphere: “He comes in and says ‘Here, I can do this, I’m the best.’ And so it’s a cool feeling to ride him.” The change in horses should make her a formidable opponent for the other WDM riders.
Lars Petersen and Mariett finished fourth after taking the lead in the first half of the competition with 71.725%. Their test, set to a circus music theme, included a precisely executed slowing of a canter pirouette that was timed to coincide with the music.
Animated extensions highlighted David Marcus‘s test aboard Chrevi’s Capital, and they overcame a spook midway through the test to take fifth with 69.200%. Marcus felt that having a run-through of the freestyle would “absolutely” be helpful going into WDM. “This was a great warm-up show for us, and I’m going to take him home and just give him a little confidence before the weekend,” he said.
Fellow Canadian Jacqueline Brooks, riding D-Niro, scored 68.825% to repeat her sixth-place effort from Friday’s Grand Prix. Her freestyle music featured selections by Canadian artists. “It’s the first show of the season, so things are a bit rusty, but he really tried hard,” Brooks said. “I don’t think he really made any mistakes – he just needed a little bit more power.”
All six of the riders who finished in the ribbons, as well as seventh-placed Silvia Rizzo and Donnerbube II, return for the WDM.
Kittel, although pleased with his win, does not plan to rest on his laurels. “We have to move a notch up, even, if we want to be in a good spot next week,” he said. “The competition doesn’t sleep.”
“We’re all going to give it a fight, that’s for sure.”