August 8, 2006 -- An abundance of dressage medals will be up for grabs at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games (WEG) now that individual medals for both Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle will be contested for the first time in a championship since the 1994 WEG in The Hague.
By the time definite entries are received by August 15, the organizers expect up to 93 riders from up to 33 countries. Twenty countries have nominated teams with individual nominations from a further 13 countries. In order to compete in Aachen, riders and horse must have qualified by obtaining, as a combination, two scores of 64 percent or over achieved at a three star CDI, FEI World Cup dressage qualifier or CDIO (international team competition). These scores must have been awarded by an FEI official international judge from a nation other than the rider's own.
For the majority of participants, the honor and responsibility of representing their country at world level will focus on six vital minutes in the arena for their FEI Grand Prix test. Five judges will take their places at different stations around the arena. Each judge awards a mark out of 10 for each of the 32 set movements, plus four collective marks, each carrying a coefficient of two. When the marks are added, each rider's score will be announced as a percentage. With a maximum of four riders per team, the scores from the highest placed three riders will be added, with the medals won by the teams with the highest total scores.
Once the team honors have been decided over the two-day Grand Prix test, the top 30 riders will go forward with a clean slate to the next set test, the Grand Prix Special, which includes the same movements but in a more difficult pattern and sequence. At this stage if all four members of a nation's team are qualified, they may all take part. At the end of the Special, individual medals will be awarded. Then, the top 15 riders will move on to the Freestyle to Music. The top three riders will again win individual medals. No more than three riders per nation can take part, however, but the same winner could take all.
"This will without doubt add excitement to the 2006 World Dressage Championship," said FEI Dressage Committee Chairman Mariette Withages, referring to the new medal system.
Local heroine Nadine Capellmann won the CHIO Aachen this year with the stellar Elvis VA, as she did with the late lamented Farbenfroh before going on to win the world title in Jerez in 2002. "It is a lifetime dream to be on a team in my hometown," Capellmann said, whose late father Kurt was president of Aachen show in the early 1990s.
Her colleagues on the German team will be just as anxious to retain the gold for their country and go for the individual honors. Heike Kemmer's Bonaparte made a phenomenal comeback to win the German Championship at Munster. After the disappointment of last year's FEI European Championship, where Bonaparte sustained an injury to his fetlock after the Grand Prix Special, Kemmer has taken it gently with the 13-year-old her father bought as a foal. This is Kemmer's first World Championship call up.
Teammate Klaus Husenbeth got his first German team gold at the 2002 WEG. He won the German men's championship with Piccolino at Munster and both the CDI Grand Prix and Freestyle at Aachen in May.
Isabell Werth is no stranger to championships of any form and as the individual champion at the Rome 1998 WEG and the Special winner in The Hague 1994 with the great Gigolo FRH, as well as team gold on both occasions, no one could doubt she'll be trying to bring a medal or two home with Warum Nicht, who although only 10 years old, has already shown his big occasion mettle as runner-up to Keltec Salinero at the 2006 FEI World Cup Final.
The Netherlands' Anky van Grunsven won her first championship ever when she took the Individual Freestyle title in front of her home crowd at the 1994 WEG in The Hague. What has happened since that landmark win with Bonfire demands its own history book, with more than a few chapters for Keltec Salinero, her partner in two FEI World Cup Dressage titles as well as the reigning Olympic and European champions. With teammates Imke Schellekens-Bartels on Sunrise, van Grunsven's pupil Edward Gal on Lingh and Laurens van Lieren on Hexagon's Ollright, van Grunsven and the Dutch team will be out to win on the German soil.