September 19, 2019
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Werth captures 3rd dressage gold at 2019 European Equestrian Championships

Rotterdam, Netherlands, Aug 24 (efe-epa).- Germany's Isabell Werth and "Bella Rose" captured gold once again at the 2019 FEI European Equestrian Championships, coming out on top on Saturday in the Individual Freestyle dressage competition.

With a superb score of 90.875 percent, the most accomplished athlete in this discipline barely edged out countrywoman Dorothee Schneider (who rode "Showtime FRH" to a score of 90.561 percent) in what was a new highlight in a rivalry that is approaching historic proportions.

"I'm so happy and proud of Bella - the whole week she has given me a super feeling and always wanted to try her best," the 50-year-old Werth told reporters afterward.

Schneider, who became just the sixth athlete to post a score of 90 percent or higher, said that during her routine she was not thinking about the result and only wanted to enjoy the competition.

Werth (86.520 percent) and Schneider (85.456 percent) also won gold and silver, respectively, on Thursday after a tight battle in the Individual Special competition, while Germany won the Team dressage competition, which concluded on Tuesday.

Werth also won gold in the Individual Special, the Individual Freestyle and the Team dressage events at the 2017 European Equestrian Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Over her storied career, she has won six Olympic gold medals, nine gold medals at the equestrian world championships and a score of golds at the European Championships.

Led by Werth, German female dressage riders are currently dominating every tournament, with Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, who rode "TSF Dalera BB" to a score of 89.107 percent, taking home the bronze medal Saturday in Individual Freestyle dressage.

She also finished fourth in the Individual Special event, just behind Denmark's Cathrine Dufour.

For his part, Spain's Claudio Castilla, riding "Alcaide," delivered a solid performance in the Individual Freestyle dressage, finishing 12th with a score of 77.861 percent.

"I found myself in a really good place, not only because of me personally, but because of everything around me, all the people who accompany me; ... the animal gave everything these three days in what was a very long week. I'm thankful," Castilla told EFE at the conclusion of the competition.

In the Para-Dressage Team competition, the Netherlands came out on top Saturday with a score of 227.093 percent, while Great Britain (221.302 percent) took silver and Denmark (216.493 percent) captured the bronze.

Belgium won the Team Jumping competition on Friday, narrowly edging Germany, while the Individual Jumping final will take place on Sunday.

The European Equestrian Championships began on Aug. 19 and will run through Sunday in Rotterdam.

Germany currently leads the medal table with seven total medals (three golds, three silvers and one bronze). EFE-EPA

Related content

Spain's Claudio Castilla: From rubber boots to int'l riding success

By Jose Miguel Pascual Labrador

Rotterdam, Netherlands, Aug 24 (efe-epa).- Spain's Claudio Castilla is one of the most in-form competitors on the international equestrian circuit, a dressage rider whose No. 69 ranking belies the fact that he has regularly been among the top 25 in recent tournaments.

In an interview with EFE on Saturday at the European Equestrian Championships in Rotterdam, the Spaniard said he has worked his way up from modest beginnings and that his focus is on "competing against himself to improve with every opportunity."

Castilla finished 19th in the Grand Prix Individual Competition, which concluded on Tuesday, having posted an overall score of 73.214. He then finished 12th Saturday in the final round of the Grand Prix Freestyle, which is known as "kur" and involves a routine set to the music of the rider's choice.

With his strong showing in Rotterdam, along with his 13th-place finish in dressage at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina, last year, he has booked a place in next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.

That will be the second Summer Olympics (after the 2016 Games in Rio) for the 36-year-old Castilla, who said "it's a magical feeling from the moment they tell you you're in."

"I always get butterflies when competing, but in a tournament like that (the Olympics) it's a different sensation," he said.

Castilla does not come from an equestrian family, but he said his "obsession" with horseback riding led his mother to enter him at the age of five in classes in his native city of Jerez de la Frontera.

He also played soccer as a teenager but eventually focused exclusively on equestrian events, starting out in jumping and then moving at the age of 10 to dressage, a competition in which horse and rider perform a series of predetermined movements.

"With a lot of effort my parents bought a horse, but it needed taming. The horse, unfortunately or fortunately, wasn't suited for jumping, so we looked for a rider who could make it a bit tamer and that's where I got into dressage," the athlete said.

His story is one of perseverance and "looking to get lucky through hard work."

He was not initially accepted by the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art, although that turned out to be a blessing in disguise because he met his future wife, Isabel, while waiting for the next course to open up.

After finishing his training at that prestigious academy in Jerez de la Frontera, he relocated to Madrid and met up with Jan Bemelmans, the longtime coach of Spain's dressage team.

That contact gave him the chance to train at the very highest level, an experience that he leveraged to win a national championship and then start his international career.

Although horse riding is thought to be a sport for the wealthy, Castilla recalled that he started out with rubber riding boots (as opposed to traditional leather) before forging a path that led to a spot on Spain's national equestrian team.

He said the key for him has been his "humility to learn" and the ability to stay grounded and appreciate the moments that life offers.

Castilla is a rider who exudes joy on the saddle, a quality that allows him to connect with spectators during his routines and, in his opinion, "should also be something that judges assess for the (rider's) score."

The International Federation for Equestrian Sports is striving to attract more fans, according to Castilla, who said one solution could be to encourage riders to be more expressive.

"The daily grind is very strict for everyone, for the horses, the veterinarians, the riders. So when you're in competition, I like to convey a bit more happiness. It's time to enjoy all the effort," he said. EFE-EPA

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