Ireland’s Anna Merveldt and Esporim scored 73.310% in their debut International Grand Prix Kür (freestyle to music) to be placed tenth at the fifth leg of the 2019/2020 FEI World Cup Dressage Western European League in Salzburg, Austria.
At the start of 2019 the Italian-based dual Irish Olympian did not have a horse capable of challenging for a place on the Team Ireland dressage squad aiming for Tokyo 2020 qualification.
Everything changed suddenly at the beginning of March when she was asked to ride the ten-year-old Lusitano stallion Esporim.
In their first international outing as a combination in Ornago, Italy, just four weeks later, Anna and Esporim achieved the first of two qualifying scores required to compete in the FEI European dressage championships in Rotterdam.
That qualification target was achieved, within the minimum requirement of two attempts, at Mannheim, Germany in early May.
By July they were members of the first Irish team to compete at the prestigious Aachen nations cup show in Germany.
One month later they helped Team Ireland secure a first ever dressage team qualification for the Tokyo Olympics.
Owned by Mario Greco, Giovanna Mazza, Anna’s sister Lorli Higgins and her brother-in-law Michael, Esporim by Pagao out of the Quiaz dam Lequita, is the first Lusitano to compete for Ireland at big tour international championship level.
In early October Merveldt suffered a setback.
She was injured in a freak fall from a horse just six weeks before her 2019 international winter campaign was due to commence. A hairline fracture to her right elbow coupled with a large and painful haematoma on her upper right leg kept the Irish rider out of action for nearly a month.
Back in the saddle for less than three weeks, Anna secured two top five placings at the four-star show in Munich, Germany last month.
Anna Merveldt and Esporim scored 68.326% for equal eighth place, along with Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg (Annabelle), in the in the FEI World Cup Grand Prix in Austria. Speaking from Salzburg Anna said: “I want to sincerely thank the owners of Esporim, for giving me the opportunity to ride their wonderful Lusitano stallion. They are great people to work with.
“I’m very happy with Esporim’s debut international freestyle today. The Spanish-themed freestyle programme really suited him and his excellent temperament gives me so much confidence for the future.
“He is only a ten-year-old and there is so much more to come, what a little trojan!” In a repeat of the Grand Prix result, the top two podium places in today’s FEI World Cup class went to Germany.
Isabell Werth and Emilio scored 85.905% for the win with Benjamin Werndl and Daily Mirror in second on 84.705%.
Austrian Olympian Victoria Max-Theurer and Benaglio placed third on a score of 78.525%.