When Ashley Holzer's nine-year-old son, Harry, heard that the Canadian rider was seeking a berth in her third Olympics, he said, "You'd better give it your all, Mom. It may be your last chance."
Although she's 44 years of age--definitely not "old" for Olympic equestrians but she admits to a nine-year-old it may seem that way--Holzer and her 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Pop Art gave it their all on Thursday in the Grand Prix at the Zada WEF Dressage CDI 3* at the CN Winter Equestrian Festival presented by Zimmerman Advertising.
They posted a score of 73.042 per cent for the victory. All five judges placed her first with Axel Steiner at E giving her 75.208 per cent.
Compatriot Jacqueline Brooks and Gran Gesto were second with 68.542 per cent while Lisa Wilcox, 2004 Olympic team bronze and 2002 World Equestrian Games team silver medalist, was third on Naomi with 67.00 per cent.
The Grand Prix and other classes were the first dressage competition in the completely rebuilt International Arena at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center with its Olympic quality footing. Thirty combinations started the FEI Grand Prix that was also a qualifying competition for the USEF National Grand Prix Championships and the Selection Trials for the Olympics in August.
The musical freestyle will be held under lights in the International Arena on Saturday with a dressage celebration party sponsored by www.lingh.nl as the official website of the Dutch stallion Lingh owned by Karin Offield's Offield Farms. A band, dancing, buffet dinner and open bar are part of the celebration for which reservations for both tables and individual seats can be made at www.equestriansport.com.
Holzer, who has homes in New York and Wellington, said that "Poppy" as she calls her horse, showed more life than normal as wind and the atmosphere of the International Arena provided elements of "freshness."
She said that showing in PBIEC;s International Arena is the best possible preparation for the Olympics as the dressage competition at the Games will be held on similar footing and under lights. But she said she wants to show in different types of conditions to prepare for anything.
One of her biggest challenges, she said, is preparing for the musical freestyle as "I'm not very musical." She that she psyches herself up by occasionally singing karoake with her children and repeating to herself, "I love the freestyle."