2003 Dressage at Equestrian Estates

Adriene Arkwright Wins First PSG

Seven years ago, Adult Amateur Adriene Arkwright of Montpelier, VA imported the gelding To Maar, (Maraton x Torega), from Sweden. Her first “real” dressage horse, the 15-year-old Swedish warmblood turned out to be more of a handful than she’d bargained on. But with diligent hard work, this Adult Amateur turned “Tommy Terrific,” as he is known around the barn, into a winning Prix St. Georges horse.

It was only their fifth test in competition and the first time at PSG for both horse and rider, and Arkwright and To Maar walked away with a score of 66.75% and the blue ribbon. Recently the gelding had his hocks and stifles injected and had to have some time off, so Arkwright had to practice the test by drawing it out on a piece of paper and had only the two weeks before the show to practice on horseback.

Originally ridden by an amateur event rider in Sweden, Arkwright said that Tommy “Knew tricks but none of the basics…he used to bolt away when we tried to catch him and even jumped out of the paddocks. When we did catch him, he would do anything to get out of putting on the bridle or saddle. Today, he nickers when he sees me coming to the barn and all those problems are gone.”

Taking things level by level, Arkwright has had to do most of my training with Tommy at home without any coaching, as she and her husband run a business together. “I don't even have an arena or mirrors to work him,” she said. “To me, this is one of the biggest accomplishments, because so many people have said you have to have the perfect arena, and mirrors to get a horse through the levels.” Instead, she works in a 20-acre rolling pasture, using the fence line when she needs a wall, and occasionally mowing figures in the grass so that she knows how big a circle should be, for instance.

Arkwright says that her coach, Linda Smith, has really helped bring things together over the last three seasons, which Arkwright spends in Florida training. “[Smith] had her doubts about Tommy when she first saw him, but each year she brought out major improvements in both Tommy and me. A lot of credit is due to her patience and keen insight into both horse and rider,” said Arkwright.

The path has not been without obstacles, some of the most recent including the switch to the double bridle and fine-tuning the saddle fit. “Tommy has a special skill at flipping his tongue [over the bit] even when the crank is really tight,” she said. “We almost went into the ring on Friday with his tongue flipped. Thankfully, Linda spotted it just before we went in! The saddle fit has been an ongoing thing, but none of my earlier coaches ever caught it.”

Tommy, while settled enormously, is still known to be very spooky. “When we entered the ring on Friday there was a big pile of manure at X. He spooked, twisted, and halted avoiding the pile, but landed square. The judge, S. Malone Casey, wrote, "Sorry we don't step in poop." It was nice to hear her laugh! Normally we make high marks for the entrance, but she only took off two points.”

Later in the test, Arkwright lost count of the three-tempi changes and did seven instead of five. “I thought it would be better to do too many than not enough. I lost another two points and the judge said, ‘not required, but very nice!’”

Arkwright continues, “Overall, we are very grateful to be here and the season has not only brought us better performances, but some wonderful friends. I never thought he’d be the horse he is today.”

Silke Rembacz' Double Blue

Silke Rembacz got lucky at this show: because there were so many entries in the USDF/ABIC Prix St. Georges division it was divided into two Open sections and an Adult Amateur section, so that her horses didn’t have to compete against each other. That meant that Millennium, (Nimmerdor x Diona/Formateur), and Highlife Farm's, Connecticut, by Calatto, who are usually placed back-to-back, had the opportunity to each walk away (or Piaffe away, if you will,) with a blue ribbon.

From here Rembacz will take the two horses north to her summer base in New Jersey. They will compete at Port Jervis and then hopefully go on to Gladstone, NJ for the Festival of Champions. Ultimately Rembacz, a native of Bremen, Germany who is now a US citizen, would like to compete at the USET Grand Prix championships. Rembacz is trains with Cathy Connelly.

Laura Freeman, Millennium’s former owner, drove to Florida from Folsom, LA to watch “Mickey” compete. “I love watching him and I’m videoing him because everyone at home wants to see him too,” she said.

Doss Turns Around her Weekend

Brooke Doss, from Charlotte, NC started out the weekend with a rocky test on her own gelding Westcott when he decided that a rough patch of sand in the arena was a dragon and that he wouldn’t go near it, even though they were competing in the Prix. St. George level Pan-American Games qualifying test. Luckily the next day Westcott redeemed himself by scoring 70.083% and placing third in the Intermediaire 1 qualifier, behind Tara Stegen and New Tango (71.083%) and Arlene Page and Wild One (70.667%).

Last year Westcott won the BLM I-2 Championships and in 2001 he was the BLM Prix St. George Champion. He was also ranked 13th in the US in 2002. Doss credits her work with Lars Peterson this season with helping her prepare for the selection trials, which she said has helped to solidify Westcott’s presentation in the small tour.

It was with Marcy Wright’s 8-year-old KWPN gelding Nambe (Pinnocchio x Amelusiana) that Doss really excelled this weekend, however, winning 2nd level test with the second-highest score of the entire show, a 76.8%.

Nambe, who was imported by Wright and started by Manfred Lewis, spent about a year relaxing at Wright’s farm in Tryon, NC before Doss put him back into work and started showing him last year. The pair won the BLM Championship for First level in 2001 and have been steadily improving since then.

“In July he was coming off a break, had no muscle and was weak behind,” said Doss. “His natural gaits are wonderful but he had no strength to maintain the connection. He was really loose in his movement so it was hard to stabilize him for several months. We nicknamed him Gumbi!”

Developing the horse carefully and with patience in all three gaits, Doss focused on the basics to bring Nambe back into form. “He loves his work when he’s confident,” said Doss. “He can get easily frustrated but as soon he can handle it and understands, he really gets into it. I’m looking forward to feeling him develop in the future.”

Doss’ parents, Ann and Bill, spent the weekend visiting from North Carolina and acting as their daughter’s support team. “It’s a special weekend because they’re here,” said Brooke.

She also mentioned that Wright is a supportive owner whose commitment to her horse is encouraging. “She supports us as a team and gives us time to take things slowly before going further,” she said. “She’s very patient.”

Her partnership with Nambe is important to Doss, and she noted that a comment from judge Lilo Fore was especially meaningful to her. “She said, ‘I appreciate this horse’s confidence in you as a rider,’” said Doss. “That recognition of our partnership by a judge of her caliber means a lot to me.”

Doss felt that Nambe’s overall connection and throughness had improved and that she was able to maintain this better than ever. “That enhanced his medium trot and canter and his ability to carry it over his back and stay solid into his stride,” she said. “Also, he was enthusiastic throughout the test and that he stayed consistent in this kind of environment was encouraging.”

High Score of Show Goes to Livingston and Rivano

Kristi Livingston has been working as Michelle Gibson’s groom for the past two and half years but is only starting to show her own horse, Rivano, now. Dressage at Equestrian Estates was their third show together and they earned the highest score of the show: 77.308% in Training level test 2. They also placed second in Training Test 4 with 72.3%, proving that this wasn’t beginner’s luck.

Gibson, riding World of Dreams, won the Open I-2 with 72.5%. and the Grand Prix with 65.83%. Livingston accompanied World of Dreams home to Alpharetta, Georgia on the airplane when he was imported from Germany, and intends to accompany him on a flight to Athens, Greece for the next Olympic Games, too. “Being there was just the beginning,” she said. “I plan on sticking with Michelle.”

Last year when Gibson went to Germany to train with Rudolf Zeilinger, Livingston went along to groom and that is when she found Rivano. Bred by Martin DeKauf, Rivano is a Westphalian gelding by Rheingal out of Festiva. “He’s the sweetest horse on the ground that I’ve ever dealt with,” she commented. “Then you get on and he’s a fire-breathing dragon! He’s the horse I wanted but didn’t think I’d get.” Rivano has been under saddle for nine months, and Livingston has turned him into a project for herself. Eventually she plans to sell him, but for now has the Young Horse Championships for five-year-olds in her sights.

“I knew we had a really good ride here,” said Livingston. “He was dynamite. It was the first test I actually rode like any other day. I usually go in and just ride the test, not the horse. This was definitely our best yet.”

On riding with Gibson she said, “She’s a perfectionist to work with and she exhibits quality and depth of experience through her training. She expects you to set goals and achieve them but not by holding your hand. She lets you make mistakes and learn from them. She’s also extremely patient, as anyone who lets you figure it out on your own has to be.”

Tara Stegen and New Tango

Winning both the Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire 1 qualifying tests at Equestrian Estates will help pave the way for Tara Stegen to represent the United States at her first International team competition. Though she has ridden on teams at the North American Young Riders Championships and represented the US at the 2001 World Breeders Young Horse Championships in Verden, Germany, in the six-year-old division, placing tenth overall, Stegen, an accomplished rider, has never competed on a US team on foreign soil.

New Tango is a special horse for Stegen, who has trained him since he was a youngster. His explosive extensions and clean changes of lead helped the nine-year-old gelding by Contango take home the two blue ribbons. Not needing a freestyle score, they took a rest on Sunday.

Stegen trains with Robert Dover and Sjef Janssen. Previously she spent a year and a half in the Netherlands training with Janssen and his partner, world champion dressage rider Anky van Grunsven. While she misses her friends in Holland, Stegen said that it’s fun to be home and she loves that her parents can come watch her ride when they want to.

Much Ado’s Rocking Freestyle

After winning the Heidelberg Cup last weekend Carol Lavell and Much Ago were poised for another victory, but it took under Sunday for the pair to net another blue. The big gelding was hot and spooky on Friday and Saturday but by Friday’s Intermediaire 1 Freestyle the heat and exertion settled him down. “He didn’t light up until people clapped and whistled,” said Lavell.

Produced by Ed Iarusso and Ann Guptill’s Equestrian Arts of East Haddam, CT, Lavell’s freestyle was composed of music from the Rolling Stones. “I’m a fan from way back,” said Lavell. “It’s very cool; I have another Stones selection picked out for when he moves up, too.”

While Lavell is a contender for the Pan-Am Games team as long as she gets a CDI under her belt, which she plans to do next month in Raleigh, NC, she is taking things one step at a time. “When I rode at the Pan-Am Games they were in Franklin, Indiana and I just put my horse in the trailer and drove,” she said. Concerns with International travel and the risks to her horse keep her from getting too attached to the idea of riding at this year’s Games, to be held in the Dominican Republic. “It’s a lifetime achievement building a Grand Prix horse,” she said, and she doesn’t take that achievement lightly.

Susan Dutta Is Learning from a Pro

With four horses competing this weekend Susan Dutta racked up a few points on her Pan-Am quest with Westside Lady DC and gained some valuable experience with her schoolmaster, Chalston DC, (Corde x Kokette), which she rode Hors Concours.

A 16-year-old Oldenburg gelding, Chalston DC, (“Charlie”), was purchased from Bianca Kasselman in Germany after a successful career including Bundeschampionat, European Young Riders Champion, and numerous Grand Prix wins in Europe.

“Charlie has taught me a lot about Piaffe/passage,” said Dutta, who is still developing a rapport with Chalston DC and noted, “You buy horses, not partnerships.”

While Dutta is enthusiastic over her trainer, Dennis Callin, she said, “They say the best teacher is a great horse, and this is so true.”

She explained, “If I ride correctly it’s all there. He teaches me how to ride the transitions and the trot extensions and he makes it fun. When I ride well, he goes well; he’s a good teacher. He’s so high quality that it doesn’t take much warm-up either; it’s 20 minutes from the barn to the ring. Since I can’t practice too much before I go in the ring it’s teaching me to believe in myself.”

Westside Lady, a Hannoverian mare by Westbury out of the Lombard mare Lamba, is ten this year and is really coming into her own. She placed third in the PSG USET/ Pan-Ams qualifier on Friday with 68.083% and ninth in the Intermediaire 1 on (66%), but her most shining ride of the weekend was in Sunday’s I-1 freestyle, also a qualifying test, in which she earned 69.375%. Dutta, who chose to start competing late this season, plans to take the mare on to Pinehurst and Raleigh to earn the rest of her qualifying scores.

“This is only the second qualifier of the season for her and she’s still wound up,” she said. “I held her back from the Pan-Am qualifiers to work on the Grand Prix movements and then had to ‘de-tune’ her for the Prix St. Georges, so there’s a a little more tension in her now."

Related Links
Scores 2003 Dressage at Equestrian Estates
Carol Lavell and Much Ado Take Home the 2003 Heidelberg Cup
Susan Dutta Dominates FEI Freestyles at Wellington Dressage
Championhsip of the Americas: Heavy Medal Weekend for Susan Dutta
Silke Rembacz and The Summit Win 2000 Heidelburg Cup
Who's Who: Michelle Gibson
Who's Who: Tara Stegen
Who's Who: Susan Dutta
Who's Who: Silke Rembacz