Five-time World Cup champion Isabell Werth (GER) contested her first qualifier of the Western European League 2023/24 season at the Stuttgart German Masters this week.
Was starting at the third of 11 legs and in front of a German crowd a strategic choice? Maybe. Werth is nothing if not shrewd. But make no mistake, she came to win.
Riding longtime mount, Emilio, her partner since 2014, Werth and the 17-year-old gelding won Friday’s FEI Dressage World Cup™ Grand Prix and delivered the performance of their career in Saturday’s Freestyle.
“To be honest I think maybe this is the best test we’ve ever done—he was on fire today!” said Werth.
“From the minute we started and I said to him, ‘come on, let’s go!’ he was just so cool, and he stayed the same during the whole test! There wasn’t a second when he was tricky or hot, and he was full of power and listening to me. I think he was feeling really proud of himself so he just wanted to do his best!”
The judges and crowd agreed. Werth and Madeleine Winter-Schulze’s gelding were awarded a score of 86.880%, including an artistic high score of 95.600%, and a standing ovation from the crowd that erupted with her one-handed ride to halt up the final centreline.
“It was outstanding,” said Werth of the atmosphere in the Hanns-Martin-Schleyer Halle, “something more than ever today, the support of the crowd was incredible!”
Second place finisher Nanna Skodborg Merrald (DEN), who took her third runner-up finish from three starts so far this season, seconded that notion: “It was like a party in there—that was the craziest atmosphere I’ve ever experienced!”
Stuttgart is the first qualifier of the season for Werth. Her next is to be determined.
“I need to sit down and work it out, because of course we have to look towards [the 2024 Olympics in] Paris too. I will ride some more qualifiers but I’m not sure which ones I will go to just yet,” she explained.
The Western European League next stops in Madrid (ESP) November 24th and 25th.