Sitting with the Queen: Young Guns Sönke Rothenberger, Cathrine Dufour Share Podium with Isabell Werth at European Dressage Championships

Well, you can’t fault them on consistency.

Isabell Werth, Sönke Rothenberger, and Cathrine Dufour must be getting comfortable on the European Championships podium, as they placed in the exact same order after the Grand Prix Special today as they did individually in the team competition on Wednesday.

“I am completely happy,” said Isabell, who rides for Germany and scored above 83% in both tests on the 12-year-old mare Weihegold OLD.

“It was the best feeling I’ve had in the trot and passage tour I’ve had in a Special because she was really with me and I could take risks,” Isabell continued. She went on to say that she felt the weakest point in her winning test was the first piaffe, but she knows her horse can piaffe magnificently, so she was happy overall.

The challenge was to take risks but not so much as to make a mistake, because I know the rest behind me (Sönke and Catherine) behind want to make me angry!” she laughed.

For “The Queen of Dressage”, 48, it’s a familiar spot on the top of the podium. But the young competitors on her heels – both in their 20’s – show that the future of dressage is bright…and extremely talented.

“Of course, I know my horse can do anything and beat anybody, but it’s another thing to bring it in the show, in the ring, on the day you need it,” said 22-year-old German rider Sönke Rothenberger about his 10-year-old gelding Cosmo. Sönke earned a silver medal, only a little over a point behind Isabell with a 82.478.

“Just the transitions in trot on the short side…you just have to sit back and you feel like he’s on springs every time,” he said. “It’s an astonishing feeling – I get goosebumps when I think about that feeling.”

Sönke, who competed as a show jumper in his junior years, switched to dressage when he realized there was a thrill to be found on the flat, as well.

“I always thought when you have a jumping horse and you jump over a 1.60m obstacle, you get goosebumps and you have a feeling you’re on a rollercoaster. I thought you couldn’t have that on a dressage horse until I sat on Cosmo,” he said. “And then I thought, ‘Ok, yeah, he gives me that feeling as well.’”

At just 25 years old, currently ranked 7th in the world, with an Olympic Games already under her belt, Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour has a special partnership with her 24-year-old gelding, Atterupgaards Cassidy. He has carried her from young rider championships to the Olympic Games and this week, to the European Championships. She earned a bronze medal behind Isabell and Sönke.

“It’s such a journey to bring him from juniors seven years ago bringing him up as a young rider and to sit here today,” she said.

The dressage competition concludes tomorrow (Saturday) with the final individual competition, the Grand Prix Freestyle, at 2:30 p.m. CEST (8:30 a.m. EST). Go here for results or here to watch the action on FEI TV.

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