Competition for the AGDF Week 8 - Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI W - continued on Saturday with the FEI Intermediaire-1 and FEI Grand Prix Freestyle. The FEI Intermediaire-1 was topped by Olivia LaGoy-Weltz (USA) and Rassing's Lonoir, while Adrienne Lyle and Wizard were back in the winner's circle for the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle. In addition to the dressage competition, spectators were treated to musical entertainment from talented young singer Kristin Sponica of the Frost School of Music at University of Miami, accompanied by Danielle Werz on keyboard, in addition to an American Mustang exhibition. Competition for the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI W concludes Sunday with the FEI Intermediaire-1 Freestyle and FEI Grand Prix Special. The FEI Grand Prix Special begins at 9 a.m. at The Stadium at PBIEC, followed by the FEI Intermediaire-1 Freestyle at approximately 12:20 p.m. Lyle (USA) and Wizard topped the class with a score of 76.525%, just edging out second place finisher Mikala Gundersen (DEN) and My Lady, who finished on a score of 76.125%. Cesar Parra (USA) and Van the Man were third with a score of 74.000%.
Mary Ann and Walter McPhail, co-founders of the Palm Beach Dressage Derby, were pleased to see their beloved competition find a home at the AGDF. "We're very happy that the derby has evolved again, and that we're here on this beautiful showground, and we want to thank Mark Bellissimo and all the people that have made it possible for us to be here. We appreciate it," Mary Ann McPhail expressed.
Mark Bellissimo, CEO of Equestrian Sport Productions, was equally happy to have salvaged the Palm Beach Dressage Derby. "It's such an amazing legacy event in this area. The whole crew that was behind this should be proud that they did this. They were the inspiration for dressage in this community, and it's a leadership role in this country," Bellissimo remarked. Bellissimo also thanked Allyn Mann of Adequan for believing in his vision of creating a world-class dressage facility in Wellington, a vision that now includes the Palm Beach Dressage Derby. "I think [the McPhails] are the inspiration and vision behind dressage [in Wellington]. I'm honored to be able to continue that vision for them with our team," Bellissimo explained, "and it was Allyn Mann and Adequan that shared our vision for this place."
Lyle acknowledged that Wizard was a little on the hot side for their freestyle, but their test still went incredibly well. "He was very hot tonight, but when you can hold it all together like that, it just gives you a phenomenal feeling. He's like no other horse I've ever sat on. The power and elasticity he can offer when he's on like that is amazing," Lyle described. There's a thin line between incredibly expressive gaits and having problems when he's hot, which Lyle is sure to carefully manage. "He does stuff brilliantly when he's like that, and I think it's important for the judges to see him when he's on his 'A' game and doing the impressive stuff like that. So I think it's a fine line between him getting the quality and expression out and still keeping it under [control]," Lyle explained. Earlier in the season, Lyle described Wizard as feeling his best ever, a statement she still stands by as the gelding starts to show his consistency. "I still believe he is doing better now than he ever has before, and what's been the biggest thing for him is now he's being consistent, and I think that's where he lacked," Lyle commented. "He's getting very workmanlike about it now."
After Friday's test, Gundersen said she would trust My Lady's energy a bit more and really push her for the freestyle, a choice she felt paid off despite a few minor mistakes. "I pushed her a little bit harder than I've done before in the freestyle, and it paid off. I had a couple little mistakes because of that also, but that's what happens when you try harder. You take some risks, but in general I'm really happy. I'm very pleased with the score, it's the highest score we've had so far, so we're definitely going in the right direction," Gundersen outlined. Both rider and horse truly enjoy the freestyle, which Gundersen feels continues to improve as her horse gets stronger. "She needs to get a little bit stronger still. We have some difficulties in the freestyle that I need to get a better score. Eventually once she's stronger and can do the lines better and more secure, the scores will go higher," Gundersen outlined. "The music is fantastic. Everybody loves it, I love it, the mare loves it. The choreography is just a little bit difficult still, so we have some little things."
Parra also felt his horse was on an upward trajectory and is eager to see where Van the Man will go from here after making a few adjustments to his program. "We tried to change a little bit the warm-up. We're working now with Robert Dover and are looking more at different aspects. I respect his input and I think every time you change the team it takes a while to adjust, but I think we're looking forward now to keep going up. It's a horse of great quality and great fun, and I really love riding him and enjoy him very much," Parra detailed. Despite a challenging warm-up, Parra put his trust in Van knowing he often does better during the test than warming up. Riding Van has become a true joy for Parra, and he felt the test was overall very well executed. "I trust him a lot in the ring. I love the freestyles. I've done many freestyles in my life, and I really enjoy the music. Besides [the half pass to the left], he was pretty on. He was very light, very easy to ride." Parra said.
Earlier in the day, LaGoy-Weltz and Rassing's Lonoir, a 10-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by the rider, finished first in the FEI Intermediaire-1 on a score of 73.596%. Americans swept the top three, with Christopher Hickey and Ronaldo earning second place with a score of 72.149% and Silva Martin and Rosa Cha W finishing third with a score of 70.439%.
She continued, "He was just more relaxed. Yesterday, even just in the warm-up he wasn't quite as connected. He just wasn't finding his groove in the trot. He still has lovely basic gaits, but in order to click in to that other place, finding that other notch of thoroughness, and him just relaxing and letting go and me just focusing and thinking about it. He was just in a better place." Lono is not the first horse LaGoy-Weltz has competed at CDI level and having that experience under her belt has made this time around much less stressful. "It's fun for me, because I've done one other horse in the CDIs and he was a much hotter, spookier, more difficult horse. With Lono, since I've done it, I can be like 'Oh, alright we're through the paperwork, the jog, now it's just riding the St. Georges in another ring or the I-1 in another ring.' So I can be a lot less like, 'Oh my god, it's a CDI.' It's nice that I've gotten to that point," LaGoy-Weltz smiled.