So, you already know about America’s sweethearts, Laura Graves and Verdades, and World #1 powerhouses, Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD. In case your memory needs jogging, Verdades is the beefy one with the big feet who still manages to dance like he’s floating on air with imperceptible direction from his sylph-like rider, and Weihegold is the one who beat Valegro in the grand prix special at the Olympics in Rio.
But there's more hunky Dressage horses out there, and these 7 are ones you definitely want to keep your eye on for 2018.
Mount St John Freestyle
Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin’s latest grand prix horse caused quite a stir last month by winning her first national grand prix with 81.1% — including an 83% from five-star judge Isobel Wessels – and subsequently winning her international grand prix debut on April 5. The Fidermark x Donnerhall daughter also received a 10 for her outstanding piaffe. The bouncy, chunky mare is — incredibly — only nine years old. She was the first mare bought by owner Emma Blundell when she set up Mount St John Stud in Yorkshire.
If Charlotte can replicate this national form in the CDI ring, then this young mare will go far. Literally — she’ll be on the British team for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon, North Carolina, in September. The Queen of British dressage is back, with a new megastar.
This is a name likely to resound on the European circuit this summer. Canadian Brittany Fraser’s big, strong 13-year-old chestnut gelding by Tango out of a Damiro mare has all the power in the world and seems to have overcome his once willful attitude now that he’s locked onto the demanding grand prix work. Brittany does an extraordinary job of showing the horse’s very capable extremes in tests: opening him right up in the ground-consuming extensions, yet hovering on the spot, with the revs still high, in the canter pirouettes and the piaffe. He’s like Mistral Hojris part two.
American rider Adrienne Lyle’s mount, now stepping out more confidently into his second CDI grand prix season, has been turning heads over the winter in Wellington, Florida. Owned by American dressage supporter Elizabeth ‘Betsy’ Juliano, the 11-year-old stallion is a picture of grace, power and lightness — guided by Adrienne’s soft and balanced riding. He brings to the table all the best elements from his sire, Sandro Hit. He has no weaknesses and is currently capable of scores in the mid to high 70s — borne out by his most recent result, 78.275% and second in a freestyle behind Laura Graves and Verdades in Florida. His attitude is particularly charming: watch his ability to dial the power right up whenever asked, yet stand completely still after Adrienne praises him after the final halt.
Hans Peter Minderhoud often plays second fiddle to his superstar partner Edward Gal in the international spotlight, but this long-legged Dutch rider — best known for partnerships with Glock’s Johnson and Exquis Nadine — has been nurturing a burgeoning talent in this black Vivaldi son. Glock’s Dream Boy’s FEI record may be blank since he competed in young horse classes, but watching him perform in a pas de deus he alongside Edward on Glock’s Zonic in February made spectators suspect his big tour debut is imminent. This dressage power couple are supremely capable of producing talented grand prix horses with a lot of expression, so when Dream Boy does make his CDI debut, expect a big splash — and a big score.
Glock’s Dream Boy and Glock’s Zonik
Photo: Arnd Bronkhorst
This multi-medalled stallion by De Niro represented Germany at both the London and Rio Olympics under Kristina Sprehe, but he has been out of the limelight recovering from an injury picked up in the spring of 2017. The demure Kristina silenced all her critics earlier this month with an explosive comeback at her favorite show, Dortmund CDI. She and ‘Despi’ won both the grand prix and the special, scoring over 79% in both. Despite their lengthy absence, the now 16-year-old by De Niro looked fresh and raring to go and, if they can remain injury free, should be a shoo-in for the German team at WEG, who look overwhelmingly likely to start as odds on favorites for the gold.
A captivating 13th place freestyle finish at the 2016 Rio Games under his plucky Danish rider Cathrine Dufour was a signal of great things to come for this now 15-year-old gelding by Caprimond x Donnerhall. He has since scaled new heights, with a plus-80% grand prix result putting the pair in an elite performance category. An 88.2% freestyle win (over Isabell Werth on Emilio) at the same show, in Gothenburg CDI in February, was a crowning achievement. Sadly Cathrine’s request to the FEI for a starting place at April’s FEI World Cup Final in Paris was denied, but this pair will find plenty of other shows to conquer this season en route to WEG selection.
Cathrine Dufour and Atterupgaards Cassidy
Photo: Thomas Reiner
Another yet to make his big tour debut, this imposing stallion son of Blue Hors Zack is now nine, but under Sweden’s popular rider Patrik Kittel he appears to be primed to step into the shoes of his former top stallion Scandic, whose Depeche Mode freestyle broke new ground and set new standards for musical dressage. Sezuan boasts an astounding unbeaten international record in 12 starts under his previous rider, Germany’s Dorothee Schneider. He is now schooling all the grand prix movements, as he showed at the Danish stallion show earlier this year. Although a very welcome (and high profile) addition to Patrik’s team, he has no shortage of horse power, already having two horses inside the FEI rankings top 10: Deja and Delaunay OLD.