Richard Vogel (GER) almost didn’t make it to the 2023 FEI World Cup™ Finals.

It was only because someone pulled out that his name made the list. And it was none other than McLain Ward (USA), the last winner in Omaha in 2017, who convinced him the trip was worthwhile.

“I only jumped two [qualifiers] back in Europe and luckily got in,” Vogel, 26, said. “McLain was the one who said to me, ‘If you have a chance to go you should try to make the best plan for your horse and go.’ That’s why I saved him. We’ve been here in the States, but the last three weeks in Wellington he didn’t jump. Luckily so far, he’s in very good shape.”

Saving United Touch S seemed to do the trick as the pair won Thursday evening’s Final II at the FEI World Cup™ Finals. Bernardo Costa Cabral (POR) set the ideal jump-off class for the monstrous-strided horse, and Vogel clinched victory, proving to everyone in Omaha, and across the world, what the horse is capable of.

Ironically, the concern with United Touch S at the start of his career in Germany, separate from Vogel, was that he was didn’t move quick enough. 

“I got him [six months] ago and everyone thought he was a bit too slow. Scope-wise for sure he could jump everything, but no one knew if he was clever enough in technical courses.”

No one is questioning his speed anymore, especially after perhaps the fastest victory gallop the FEI World Cup™ Final has ever seen. 

“Everyone can see how amazing this horse is,” Vogel continued of the 11-year-old Westphalian stallion (Untouched x Lux Z). “He has such a huge stride, which doesn’t necessarily make it easy in a small, delicate indoor [arena]. He just gives his best and tries his heart out.”

Managing the stride with United Touch is the key to Vogel’s success.

“I don’t think it is too big, as long as you control the stride as well,” he explained. “It’s a big advantage a lot of times that he has such a big stride and you just have to make it work also to get the stride small for short lines in the first round. He has a super attitude and he’s good to work with so actually we can use it more as an advantage.”

Also key to success is the team Vogel has behind him, including one of the history-makers right here in Omaha, where he hopes to follow suit. 

“The biggest factor for sure is to have such great horses. Not much less of a factor is the great team I have behind me. You can only be as good as the team behind you and you’re only a good rider if you have a good horse too. I’m lucky to have both of these at the moment. 

“I enjoyed this winter season to train with McLain and see his side of thinking, how he plans his shows, and how he walks a course,” Vogel continued. “Every step he takes he thinks about first. I’m naturally more of an instinct rider and don’t try to overthink it.”

Richard Vogel and United Touch. ©

Top ranked U25 rider and number 15 in the overall world rankings, Harry Charles (GBR) just missed the winner’s circle, settling for second place with the Oldenburg stallion Balou Du Reventon (Cornet Obolensky x Continue). But according to Charles, his equine partner’s breed registry might have to take a second look.

“With what you saw tonight, he’s not really a horse; he’s a pegasus,” Charles remarked after putting the horse into a speed gear rarely seen, even on this stage. “For sure [he’s] the best horse I’ve ever ridden and, even at 17 years old, he’s still one of the best horses in the world. I was watching him when I was growing up as well and it’s an honor and a privilege to be sat on him. I love every minute we get to go in the ring.”

In third place was Andreas Schou (DEN) with Darc De Lux. But the more exciting feat of the evening for Schou was learning he sits in a tie for the lead on the overall standings with Pius Schwizer (SUI), who placed fourth in Thursday’s class. 

“He ain’t no speed horse,” Schou said, in a highly American fashion, of Darc De Lux, who still managed a top-six finish in Wednesday’s opening speed class.

“Before coming here I was a little afraid for the speed class because my horse is a big, slow horse [naturally]. But luckily the course designer built a good course yesterday and I managed to stay within the top. Today he came out like he did all indoor season and fought for me all the way around. He gave me that clear round that was needed today.”

Schou would love to etch his name on that FEI World Cup™ trophy, but sometimes it’s more about the journey than the end result. 

“He is very special,” Schou said of the 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Darco x Contender). “We bought him in Denmark as a five-year-old and my wife took her time educating him because he was so careful and sharp as a young horse. Just before he turned nine I took him over. Since then we have jumped almost everywhere. 

“We’ve jumped the Olympics, World Championships, European Championships, and now the World Cu Final. When you have a horse for seven years and he keeps on delivering for you and giving us so many adventures, you are very grateful because not many riders will have a horse like that.”

The leaderboard saw quite a shuffle at the close of Thursday’s competition, with Wednesday’s winner Henrik Von Eckermann (SWE) finishing on four faults, Scott Brash (GBR) finishing on 12, Ward (USA) on 13, and Daniel Deusser (GER) opting to retire and withdraw from contention.

The ultimate question on everyone’s mind, aside from who will be crowned the 2023 FEI World Cup Finals champion, is did we see United Touch’s fastest gear tonight?

“To be honest I was afraid to test the fastest gears,” Vogel joked. “I can’t tell you how many gears are left, but I’d say there is more.”

Saturday evening’s Final III likely will not come down to speed, unless of course a tie at the top following the two rounds of jumping forces a jump-off. Vogel sits in fourth overall, hoping to get those two clear rounds he needs to move up the leaderboard in his first-ever World Cup Final.

See final class results here.

See overall standings here.

Feature image: ©