The best thing that has happened to Dressage thus far, the Freestyle to music and its challenging FEI World Cupâ„ ¢ Series, is on the verge of another breathtaking season, with the first qualifier for the Western European League set to take place this week in Odense (DEN) 222-25 November. Time has been kind to the prestigious FEI World Cupâ„ ¢ Dressage series, now embarking on its 23rd season†¦

Inspired by the flying one tempi changes of Olympic champion Ahlerich and Dr Reiner Klimke to the Olympic hymn in Los Angeles 1984, the idea for a Freestyle to music came to the mind of organiser Joep Bartels. Initially, the riders and the National Federations were somewhat hesitant. However, it was not long before the Kür to music became what has been heralded as one of the greatest developments in Dressage. FEI Dressage Committee Chair, Mariette Witthages puts it this way: “The Freestyle and the FEI World Cup™ have, in many ways, placed Dressage on the map. The concept of the World Cup™ was strong from the start and it has proved to be a very good thing for the development and emancipation of Dressage.”

That the concept was strong from the start is also reflected in the fact that only minor changes in the format have been made since its inception in 1985-1986. The most important being that only the Freestyle and not the Grand Prix combined with the Freestyle is decisive for the FEI World Cup™ title, a rule which saw the day in 2002. Says Mariette Withages, “For me this is one of the strongest points in the FEI World Cup™ Dressage. It makes the form of the day decisive, which is a challenge for the riders.”

For this season the new Freestyle protocol is introduced adding the halt into the compulsory marks and changing the quantifiers for all artistic parts. International riders have already been put to the test throughout last summers’ season.

Because of the audiences that embraced the Freestyle, developments in Dressage went further and, much to the delight of the fans, in Atlanta 1996 the Freestyle was welcomed to the Olympic format of the Games.

Influenced and driven by the enthusiasm of the crowds for the Freestyle to Music – the first season in 1985-1986 began with the victory of the very light and elegant Danish Marzog (Herzog x Marcio xx) with Anne-Grethe Törnblad-Jensen (DEN). Back to Denmark, but this time for the opening qualifier of the 2007-2008 season, with Odense hosting for the first time an FEI World Cup™ qualifier while Leif Törnblad, the former trainer of Anne-Grethe Törnblad-Jensen, is sitting in as one of the judges November 22-25.

The future of the International Dressage scene and particularly the FEI World Cup™ Dressage has recently been in the headlines with marketing and international success at the heart of discussions. Change and reassessing the format are constructive and necessary processes and the discussions and interest which have been shown confirm the value of the series now as well as in the future. Amsterdam has a good position in the range of Qualifiers, being a show held in a very vivid and interesting city of great value for tourism. Combining a visit to Jumping Amsterdam with some Amsterdam shopping and a tourism tour is very worth wile.

Two years ago the Final was held in Amsterdam, now the Qualifier in Amsterdam January 25-26 will be the sixth of the seven Qualifiers in the Western European League when tension will already build up for the Final. Be in time and order your tickets soon! Don’t miss the chance to witness some of the gold Dutch team members of last year’s European Championships. Order your tickets at

(Text by Claartje van Andel