Dutch win team gold in dressage; U.S. finishes 4th

American dressage rider Tina Konyot and Calecto V earned a score of 69.915 for their performance Tuesday during the team grand prix. The U.S. finished fourth.
American dressage rider Tina Konyot and Calecto V earned a score of 69.915 for their performance Tuesday during the team grand prix. The U.S. finished fourth.

Dressage, often described as horse ballet, is not easily confused with a blood sport.

Other than the most ardent followers, few would ever deem dressage as dramatic.

Tuesday, though, things were different in the Main Stadium of the Kentucky Horse Park, site of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

Edward Gal came through with the pressure-ride of a lifetime, lifting the Netherlands to the team Grand Prix championship.

After the Dutch, with a score of 229.75, Great Britain took the team silver (224.77). Germany, which had won all five previous WEG championships, edged Team USA for bronze, 220.60 to 218.13.

No individual medals were at stake. But Gal finished with the top score, followed by Great Britain's Laura Bechtosheimer and Team USA's Steffen Peters.

The pressure was squarely on Gal, riding Moorlands Totilas, even though they already own the Grand Prix, Special and Freestyle world records.

Teammate Adelinde Cornelissen, riding earlier in the day, was stunned when her horse, Jerich Parzival, showed blood coming from his mouth. They were automatically disqualified upon completing the test.

The blood came from a small cut on the tip of the horse's tongue, apparently the result of accidentally biting himself. The bleeding stopped even before the horse had returned to the stable area.

"It really sucks that you can finish and that he was in really, really good shape," Cornelissen said. "He was doing amazing. It's really (lousy) that you can't show that. On the other hand, I'm kind of happy that he's OK and we can just start training tomorrow again."

That left the fate of the Dutch, who led after Monday's first two rides, with Gal.

"It's more before I got on him that you feel 'OK, you're a little bit tense,'" Gal, 40, said of the pressure. "But when you start riding, then it's good. Then you just do your thing."

When he finished, the crowd responded with a standing ovation. The score, 84.043, just missed his year-old world record (84.085) and blew away the leader to that point — teammate Imke Schellekens-Bartels, who totaled 73.447 on Hunter Douglas Sunrise. The Netherlands' other score, 72.255, came Monday from Gal's partner, Hans Peter Minderhoud on Exquis Nadine.

Gal, on the Dutch silver-medal team four years ago, said his day "started not so good because when Adelinde was eliminated. And then I think, 'OK, I still have to ride so I have to concentrate on my test.'

"He felt really good. The only thing is he was a little bit excited to start because I entered the arena and they started yelling and clapping. Then it's difficult to concentrate, also for the horse. But after my first part of the test I feel him relaxing a little bit more and then I could start riding more. And then he felt really great."

Germany, which led until that point, had Isabell Werth in the ring about 10 minutes later. Her score of 75.404 on Warum Nicht was second-best to that point but not enough for the team to catch the Dutch.

Werth did not see the absence of a team gold as a negative, calling a medal "a little win for us because we have a young team. ... To come closer and closer to the Dutch team we need young horses, young combinations, and that's what we work for."

Peters, the last rider of the competition, scored 78.596 aboard Ravel. He needed 81.063 to catch the German team.

"I've done the mistake before where I chased the scoreboard, and that was last year in Florida. It was one of my worst tests ever," Peters said. "Today, I rode exactly what Ravel was offering. ... I'm just very happy with him.

Tina Konyot, winner of the April test event at the Kentucky Horse Park, placed 16th, scoring 69.915 on Calecto V. One place back was teammate Katherine Bateson-Chandler with 69.617 on Nartan. Todd Flettrich and Otto finished 38th at 66.553.

■ The top 30 riders from the team Grand Prix move on to Wednesday's Grand Prix Special, the individual competition.

The top 15 finishers in the Special qualify for Friday's Grand Prix Freestyle, a sold-out competition in which the horses perform freestyle routines set to music.