Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Casall ASK. PC: Stefano Grasso/LGCT
So often by the time a rider finally removes a horse’s shoes for the last time and turns them out to pasture, they’re nowhere near their prime – they’ve sputtered out with nagging injuries and stiffer joints – but on Saturday May 27, 18-year-old Casall ASK and longtime partner Rolf-Göran Bengtsson ended his career with a CSI 5* win just minutes before his official retirement ceremony, to the elation of the crowd, the other riders, and Rolf himself.
In an absolutely perfect ending, Casall jumped a world-class opening round with jubilation and focus to slot him into the jump-off, where he got the last slot of the day and performed magnificently, as he has his whole career. He edged his nearest competitor by three full seconds in the final act, racing for the finish like a hawk seeking its prey.
In what is Rolf’s 10th grand prix win on the LGCT circuit, he was too emotional to put it all into as many words as we would have liked. “I would carry on if I could, but it can’t end any better — Casall really deserves it.”
Gathering himself up, he continued:
“It can’t be a better end that’s for sure. Today the feeling was the same as if he was 11 years old or 18 years old. The more public there is in the ring, the more he likes it even better. To make the retirement of a horse like Casall ASK and to pick the show at our home ground in front of his home crowd, is a dream come true and the horse more than deserves this and many will remember him for many years, including me!”
The fight was no easy task – course designer Frank Rothenberger set what might have been the most demanding Grand Prix on the horses so far this season, including an open water followed by an intimidating oxer and three strides to a maximum-height vertical which tripped up many contestants throughout the first round.
There were four retirements (including Lauren Hough and Ohlala) and a slew of top horses and riders who wouldn’t escape the day without multiple rails. Having a single rail was good enough to put you in the money today.
Five legendary combinations would find clear rounds: Rolf and Casall, Laura Klaphake (GER) and Catch Me If You Can, Yuri Mansur (BRA) and Babylotte, Christian Ahlmann and Epleaser van’t Heike, and Harrie Smolders and Don VHP Z.
Laura Klaphake would be the first out for the jump-off, and a risky turn cost her in the rails column, ultimately finishing in fifth.
Her fellow-countryman was out next, and Christian and Epleaser set a good pace of 45.57 and a clear round which would ultimately net them the proverbial last podium spot in third. Yuri Mansur would not catch his time, and ultimately settled for fourth.
Harrie was able to better Christian’s fiery time with a 45.13, and the crowd held its breath to see if Rolf and Casall would get their magical ending with such a tough standard set by the flying Dutchman.
In front of a silent but electric crowd, Casall set out with his well-known stride between fences and agonizingly tight turns to streak home in a blaze of glory, and the crowd quickly lost their ability to hold back and began whistling and cheering the pair home in chorus. With a huge flourishing finish, Rolf and Casall would demolish the previous best time, winning with an eye-popping 42.69.
Just moments later, the stallion, draped in his final victory sheet, took his final lap of honor with German and international fans looking on and shaking white hankies embossed with Casall’s stunning profile.
We can think of no more fitting end to a career than this, and we wish the stallion many happy years at stud!