In a fairytale finish to his fabulous career, the 18-year-old super-stallion Taloubet Z carried Christian Ahlmann to victory in front of their home crowd at the tenth leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2017/2018 Western European League in Leipzig, Germany today. Last to go in an edge-of-the-seat 15-horse jump-off it seemed it would be almost too good to be true if they could beat the rest of the world-class field at a show where they enjoyed so many successes over the years. But they did it and, in his usual style, the extraordinary Taloubet made it look like a walk in the park one last time. There was hardly a dry eye in the house during the prize-giving ceremony in which the German duo took centre stage ahead of runners-up Carlos Lopez and Admara from Colombia and Dutchman Harrie Smolders with Zinius.

Ahlmann isn’t normally one for big emotion, but today the 43-year-old rider’s voice kept breaking when he tried to talk about the horse that was such a prolific winner, and that carried him to four World Cup Finals, who claimed the FEI World Cup™ Jumping title at this very same venue in 2011 and who was so tough that he was still capable of claiming team bronze and individual ninth place at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The German star admitted that he felt under incredible pressure this evening.

“I really didn’t want to mess it up for him! This was just a normal World Cup, like we have every week. But it was very special because it was the last class for Taloubet, and we took the risk to jump him so he could say goodbye, here where everyone knows him, and leave the sport in great shape. So to have a good result and to finish with a proper round like that under pressure, it makes me so happy! It’s the greatest day of my life for sure, not for the points or for the money, it’s much more than that. It’s because this great horse who still has all this power even at this age is ending his career in a great way, with a great win!” he said proudly.

“Yes for everyone else today was a dream, but for me it was a nightmare!” said course designer Frank Rothenberger after 15 horse-and-rider combinations made it into the jump-off. It was a cracker however, and Lopez appeared to have it in the bag when scorching through the finish in 43.39 seconds with the gelding Admara who seems to have found his perfect “other half” since partnering up with the Colombian rider two years ago. Smolders and Zinius, winners at the previous leg in Mechelen (BEL) last month, gave it their best shot but fell short by two-tenths of a second when second-last to go.

The arena fell silent as Ahlmann and Taloubet set off on their final adventure together, but it exploded with sound when, turning to the last full of running and at a flat gallop, the German duo broke the beam two-tenths of a second quicker than Lopez for the win. Even the Colombian runner-up wasn’t disappointed - “today is all about Taloubet anyway” Lopez said.

And with just three qualifiers still left to go, the next in Zurich (SUI) next Sunday, Ahlmann has now qualified for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2018 Final in Paris (FRA) in April. Like Smolders, who has also made the cut, that wasn’t on the German rider’s radar until today. “I’ll have to have a re-think about that now” he said this evening.

Result: 1, Taloubet Z (Christian Ahlmann) GER 0/0 43.19; 2, Admara 2 (Carlos Enrique Lopez) COL 0/0 43.49; 3, Zinius (Harrie Smolders) NED 0/0 44.28.

 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2017/2018 Western European League - Standings after Round 10 in Leipzig (GER):

1. Kevin Staut FRA - 65

2. Henrik von Eckermann SWE - 57

3. Edwina Tops-Alexander AUS - 50

4. Christian Ahlmann GER - 48

5. Daniel Deusser GER - 48

6. Alberto Zorzi ITA - 45

7. Steve Guerdat SUI - 43

8. Roger Yves Bost FRA - 42

9. Harrie Smolders NED - 40

10. Marcus Ehning GER - 39

by  Louise Parkes

 image: Thank you my friend”….Germany’s Christian Ahlmann and the super-stallion Taloubet Z after the pair won today’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2017/2018 Western European League qualifier in Leipzig (GER) today following which the brilliant 18-year-old horse was retired. (FEI/Daniel Kaiser)