The Magical 80 Percent: Artistic Marks Determine Winner in Freestyle Tiebreaker at Olympia

The Magical 80 Percent: Artistic Marks Determine Winner in Freestyle Tiebreaker at Olympia

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, equestrian sport continues to surprise us. In last night’s highlight class at Olympia London International Horse Show, the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Grand Prix Freestyle supported by Horse & Hound, it came down to the wire (literally) to determine the winner of the coveted title.

In a rare series of events, Germany’s Frederic Wandres aboard Duke of Britain (appropriate name, considering Olympia is in Great Britain) and home crowd favorite Charlotte Dujardin aboard Hawtins Delicato tied down to the thousandths of percentage points – 80.030% to be exact. Seriously, we didn’t know it was possible either.

Although we wish there could be room for both Charlotte and Frederic on top of the podium, because of his higher artistic marks, the 31-year-old German took home the top honors – he’s also the first German dressage rider to win the World Cup in Olympia (and rock a bowtie). Bravo!

Frederic joked in the press conference that Christmas has come early with this win, which moves him up to third on the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Western European League standings.

“For me to reach the magical 80 percent is a dream come true, especially in the company of these riders,” Frederic said. “I know if I want to have a chance, I need to have a difficult freestyle.”

Though the artistic marks determined his win, Frederic’s test also featured a high level of technical difficulty, including turns in the piaffe, passage half-passes, and flying changes on a curved line, movements attacked with gusto by the 11-year-old Hanoverian. “I trust Duke totally – I could ride him in any arena anywhere and as long as I don’t make a mistake, he won’t make a mistake.”

Frederic Wandres and Duke of Britain.

Missing her now retired partner-in-crime Valegro who frequented Olympia, Charlotte kept the beloved ‘Blueberry’ in her heart and performed their record-breaking freestyle performance to the music of “How to Train Your Dragon” aboard 10-year-old Hawtins Delicato. Although her bronze-medalist mount, MSJ Freestyle stayed at home, Charlotte’s performance aboard ‘Del’ further proves why she’s a world-class rider, Olympic gold medalist, and freestyle maestro.

Although they were ultimately awarded second, Charlotte and Del’s nearly faultless test scored higher on technical marks than Frederic and Duke. “It’s not got the highest degree of difficulty. I don’t have any piaffe turns or anything like that at the moment but that will come. That’s something obviously when the horse gets more confident and more experienced, he’ll be able to do the higher degree of difficulty for sure.”

What is Charlotte's secret? Her new book proves she has magical powers.

Charlotte Dujardin and Hawtins Delicato.

More than anything, Charlotte was delighted with the youngster, who had only ever done one grand prix freestyle before last night and had never competed in an environment as electric as Olympia.

“It was a big ask for him to go into that arena and perform. It’s quite an ask for an experienced horse but for an inexperienced horse at that level to go in and perform. For me [the goal] was get him in that arena, give him a really good ride, get him confident, come away really positive, and I feel I’ve definitely achieved that.”

Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glocks Dream Boy.

Monday night's FEI Dressage World Cup™ Grand Prix winner, Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glocks Dream Boy, settled for third in the freestyle with 77.990%.

“After yesterday of course I was really trying for another win. I saw the scores from Frederic and Charlotte because I was last to go. He felt really good in the warm-up and I thought I would really go for it,” Hans Peter said. “When I was in my test, I felt the heat was sort of affecting him and I couldn’t get him really the way I wanted. I didn’t really have him in front of me and on the hind leg. My feeling it was a little bit surviving. He still did a good job and is only 10 years old and it’s his first big indoor.”

No doubt, these young horses will go away from Olympia better for the experience of competing in the signature buzzing atmosphere.

“It is the best arena to ride in. I can’t describe what it feels like to when you go in that arena,” Charlotte said. “When you’re out the back there is nobody, and then you go down that tunnel, you go in and you literally can feel them breathing on you, it’s that close. No one can prepare you for that. There is no show that sets you up for that feeling which is why it’s so magical. For the horses to go in there and really learn from that, it really sets them up for the future.”

Photos by Sophie Harris.