“I was absolutely not expecting to get on the start list,” says Simone Pearce of her FEI World Cup Final appearance with stallion Fiderdance. As the German-based Australian dressage rider explains, she was competing in the FEI’s Western European League – the most competitive of the four World Cup leagues – and only contested three of the 11 qualifiers. Many of the European riders attend between eight to 10 shows to accumulate qualifying points.
“A World Cup Final start wasn’t really our initial intention. Over the winter, we just wanted to do some of the really nice big World Cup Qualifier (CDI-W) shows here in Europe, as that alone is an amazing experience; it’s spectacular to ride at those shows,” says Simone. She and Fiderdance contested the CDI-W in Stuttgart in November last year, followed by The London International Horse Show in December, and then Neumünster in February, with highlights being a seventh place in London and an impressive 78.045% Freestyle in Stuttgart.
When the FEI announced which athletes would gain the extra starting spaces at the FEI World Cup Final in Omaha, Simone was thrilled and surprised to find her name on the list. “When we got the last-minute call to say we were invited to the Final, of course I was super happy and super exited. To be honest, we were planning just to wait for the European outdoor season, but when you get an opportunity like that, you don’t say no; we were really excited and booked our flights to the US and were off within two weeks!”
It was a whirlwind adventure for Simone, Fiderdance and long-time friend and groom Emily Reudavey. Finishing seventh in the Grand Prix on a score of 71.320%, Simone and Fiderdance qualified for the Freestyle Final where they again finished seventh – this time with a score of 76.575%.
It was the second-best ever FEI World Cup Final result by an Australian, only bettered by Kristy Oatley’s overall sixth place in 2001 with Wallstreet. That year, Kristy was fifth in the Grand Prix and seventh in the Freestyle, and as per the rules at the time, both tests contributed points to on overall final placing. These days, the rules stipulate that the Grand Prix serves as a qualifying event for the Freestyle, with the results of the latter determining the final rankings.
“I was really happy with my first World Cup Final,” says Simone. “Of course, there are always things to be improved, but overall I thought it was a really great experience and I was super proud to be there.”
Although no stranger to events with big atmosphere – having competed at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 with Destano and the FEI World Championships in 2022 with Fiderdance – Simone explains that depending on the horse, the indoor atmosphere of a World Cup Final can be a little different to the outdoor championships.
“You have some horses that give the same feeling whether you are inside or outside. Fiderdance is a bit more confident outside, so for me it’s a little harder to ride inside. He’s a stallion and did a lot of stallion shows as a young horse, so when you enter the stadium and the crowd is already clapping, he goes a little bit into stallion show mode!” she laughs. “He can become a little nervous inside, so that was a challenge in Omaha that I had to deal with, that I didn’t have to deal with at the FEI World Championships in Herning, for example. But riding at one of these championships is just an honour and an amazing sensation… whether its indoors or outdoors, it’s a huge thrill.”