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Posted by Maria Schwennesen, FEI 4* Dressage Judge on 01/05/2015.

INSIGHT - FEI Reem Acra 2015 World Cup Dressage Final

FEI 4* Dressage Judge Maria Schwennesen recently officiated at the FEI Reem Acra 2015 World Cup Dressage Final held in Las Vegas, USA. The event was held in conjunction with the FEI Longines World Cup Jumping final.

Maria Schwennesen has provided us with an insight into her time officiating at this event...

"An email arrived in my inbox one day not so long ago from the FEI which invited me to officiate as part of the 7 judging team for the FEI Dressage World Cup final to be held in Las Vegas in April.

Well, as you can all imagine, I was so thrilled but also a little nervous at the thought of judging the top ranked combinations in the world of Dessage at such a huge and important event. I don't know how many times I have said to myself, 'hope I can get up that high in my scores'. It was easy to do - you just have no choice but to give them the 10s and 9s, they are so good. What a thrilling experience it all was.

Las Vegas - what can a person say about that place - it is surreal! Everything is huge and goes on and on, endless nights, endless lights, endless shows, endless everything! In the desert in the middle of nowhere!

I arrived on the day of the inspection (only the president of the ground jury attended, Lilo Fore from the US) and that evening all the judges and the JSP met for the draw party at the MGM Grand. A party it was, guessing around 500 people attending with dinner and drinks. It was loud and in between somehow they made the draw for the Grand Prix and the showjumping.

The next morning, off to the Thomas Mack Arena for the Grand Prix and to get our accreditation. 

The judge team was Lilo Fore US (president) Stephen Clarke GB, Francis Verbeek NED, Anette Fransén Iacobeaus SWE, Hans Christian Matthiesen DEN, Peter Holler GER and myself. What a great supportive team they were, always positive and encouraging for all members.

The Judges Supervisory Panel (JSP) consisted of 3 members, Linda Zang US, Uwe Mechlem GER and Henk van Bergen NED. We met with the JSP for a long meeting after the Grand Prix and went through all the marks with videos of the performances to review any changes made from mistakes missed by the judges, there were very few I must add, and the JSP were positive and helpful.

The Thomas Mack stadium is huge and I believe holds around 13,000 spectators. The Grand Prix was almost full capacity and the Kur (Grand Prix Freestyle) was full. 

Spectators arrived from all over the globe to see the Dressage and the atmosphere was amazing, spectator seating only a couple of meters away from the arena surrounds and a real challenge for the horses as the crowds cheer and clap noisily during the tests as they proceed. Most of the horses were so calm and focused even with all this tight atmosphere. Only a couple took a moment in the beginning to settle down to their business at hand. They are such wonderful creatures and real athletes on the world stage as are their riders.

Of course I was waiting with anticipation for Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro to enter the arena and they showed us just why they are world champions performing with such ease and harmony. What a combination to judge, such athleticism and understanding. Charlotte said in her media meeting, 'I don't do much, just steer him around really and he does it all,' I can understand her statement after judging him as there is this beautiful connection between them which is so evident. 

Edward Gal and Glocks Undercover performed an energetic and convincing test for a well deserved second with some minor tenseness in parts. Edward, forever the gentleman with a great sense of humour in his replies to his 'age' and 'bridesmaid' position to Charlotte. They have a very comfortable relationship dealing with the media, both very supportive and appreciative of one another.

Steffen Peters with Legolas 92 placed third. A crowd favourite and they roared when he entered the arena. Legolas is not the calmest of horses but Steffen had prepared him for this event so thoroughly by exposing him to atmosphere in every sense of the word. A great result and Legolas remained calm and focused for a super result. Unfortunately in the Grand Prix Freestyle, Legolas became a little unnerved by the crowd cheering and clapping in the beginning of his test and Steffen commented that he must have unknowingly made a tiny amount of blood on his side for which he was finally eliminated after the test during his check.  Steffen is such a kind and considerate rider and always one with his horses so I am sure he was most distressed that this unusual incident had occurred.

Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl with Unee BB were so solid in their performance along with the young American Laura Graves on her mount Verdades showing they are right in contention for the world stage. Morgan Barbancon Mestre riding Anky's former mount Painted Black showing us such wonderful piaffe and passage, Hans Peter Minderhound with the Dutch mount Glock's Flirt and Isabel Werth riding her tall mount El Santo NRW for 8th place.

The Freestyle was amazing with music ranging from National to humorous genre and the choreography showing originality and fluency. The 'house was full' for the freestyle and the largest spectator numbers for all of this year's World Cup attendances including the Jumping.

The opening ceremonies were like being at a disco (if I can remember that far back) with laser beamed light shows and fireworks, rock groups singing and rope dancers performing from the ceiling, and this was only moments before the horses entered the arena. Only in Vegas as often is said......all true!''

Maria Schwennesen, FEI 4* Dressage Judge 

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