West Palm Beach, Fla.—Jan. 26
Judge Stephen Clarke didn’t mince words when describing Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven’s ride on Don Auriello in the World Dressage Masters Palm Beach CDI*****  freestyle.
“With Tinne’s horse, it’s absolutely what dressage should be about,” said Clarke, a Fédération Equestre Internationale five-star judge. “The picture she presents is truly outstanding. We always talk about how the horses should be uphill, in balance and in complete harmony with the riders; I think we were very lucky to witness that tonight.”
The spectators agreed, giving Sweden’s Vilhelmson-Silfven and Don Auriello a standing ovation as they left they arena. The pair topped the freestyle field of seven riders with a score of 84.07 percent, a personal best for them. Clarke, sitting at C, gave the pair an 86.00 percent. Don Auriello is owned by Lovsta Stuteri and Antonia Ax:son Johnson, one of the sponsors of the World Dressage Masters.
“I’m delighted that Tinne had such a wonderful ride and Anton, as he’s called, was so excited, but he was also trusting of his rider,” said Johnson.
The horse’s freestyle—performed to music by The Who and designed by Cees Slings—showed off several impeccable piaffe and passage transitions and impressive extended gaits. The stands inside the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center were crowded, and there was plenty of atmosphere. But while a few horses were visibly unnerved by the commotion, Don Auriello never lost his cool.
“It’s such an honor to ride a horse like Don Auriello,” said Vilhelmson-Silfven of the 11-year-old Hanoverian (Don Davidoff—Wey O Mey, White Star) gelding. “He’s so fun to ride. He was enjoying himself. He was with me, enjoying it the whole time, just feeling that everyone was looking at him. It was a great atmosphere and a lot of people, and I feel everything fell in the right place.”
Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic HBC, winners of the Grand Prix yesterday, settled for second tonight on 82.52 percent.
“Tinne said yesterday that if she was to be beaten it should be by another Swedish person, and I have to say that back to her today,” said Kittel, who was on the Swedish Olympic Games team in London with Vilhelmson-Silfven. “My horse was a little bit hot tonight. I did the prize giving yesterday, which I don’t do usually, and in the future I won’t do them. But it’s been a fantastic event here—look at the crowd and look at the riding.”
Steffen Peters was the highest-placed U.S. rider in third (80.17%) with Legolas 92. Legolas had a mistake in the beginning of his one-tempis, but showed off metronomic piaffe and passage work. A transition from passage to walk was so seamless that a few in the crowd gasped.
Legolas, a Westphalian gelding owned by Akiko Yamazaki, is only 11 this year.
“Steffen’s horse is not so experienced yet, but there were true moments of brilliance,” said Clarke. “It was so exciting to judge because you can just picture if all goes according to plan how it will be, and that will not be before very long from now, I think. It’s a very exciting and world-class horse that has a great future.”
Heather Blitz and Paragon, also riding for the U.S., picked up fourth place (74.90%) with their freestyle. The gelding showed off his trademark extravagant extended gaits and did flawless two tempis on a circle, but had a few bobbles in his one tempi changes and occasionally lost rhythm in piaffe.
Denmark’s Lars Petersen rounded out the top five with Mariett. The Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud withdrew Whitney van’t Genthof for veterinary reasons before the start of tonight’s class.
Visit Wellington Classic Dressage for full results .