Bedminster, NJ - Last year's USEF Pony Rider Dressage National Champion and Reserve Champion has entered the Junior ranks as a force to be reckoned with.
Barbara 'Bebe' Davis, of Bedminster, NJ, and Rotano, the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by her parents, Michael and Sarah Davis, impressed judges at the 2013 USEF Festival of Champions, October 8-12, at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington and delivered the kind of brilliance in their half-passes and trot extensions to earn a 69.00% in their FEI Junior Individual Test and ultimately, the coveted ACGO/USEF Junior Dressage National Championship, on an overall score of 68.771%.
"Moments like this make all of our training and all of our riding totally worth it,” said Davis, 15, a student of Nations Cup and Olympic Dressage veteran, Cesar Parra of Piaffe-Performance Dressage. "It feels unreal to be the U.S. Champion, I am on Cloud Nine and could not be more grateful to everybody who stood by me and believed in me. I could not have done it without their continuous love and support.”
The newly crowned champion especially praised her partner, Rotano: “He was such a good boy. He was really there for me, trying and listening to my aids." The gelding, a son of Rotspon, was acquired as a seven-year-old through Parra. “Rotano was my Christmas present. It had always been our idea that he would be the perfect horse for me for Juniors. I started riding him full time in Fall of 2012 and started showing him in the Juniors in March.
“Ever since then our relationship has improved exponentially, I trust him so much and he trusts me, we depend on each other. He is a total ham and loves the attention he is getting! I cannot begin to express how grateful I am to my parents for allowing me to ride this amazing horse, he is a gift from God.”
Davis says the secret to this big-time milestone to her riding career was in starting off showing in the Pony divisions: “When I showed two weekends ago at Devon, it was my last ride in the Pony division. I got a little bit emotional on centerline, but I am very happy to see how far ponies have come."
“Ponies have helped teach me so much over the years and I continue to learn from them every day. They have taught me important values as a rider as well as an individual, such as patience, perseverance, persistence and the value of hard work. I think that all of the work that I did with ponies helped me have a seamless transition between the FEI Pony and FEI Junior divisions.”
Not that the teen wasn't still a little 'starstruck' (and loving it). “I had an incredible time. I enjoyed the Celebrity Mounted Games fund raiser and rode on Robert Dover and Debbie McDonald’s team, and it was an absolute blast! I had an incredible time riding my own horse, we had two amazing rides and there is no feeling quite like hearing the National Anthem being played and having a blue ribbon around your horse’s neck. It is truly a beautiful moment.”
What's next for America's newest dressage wunderkind? “Right now I plan on competing in the Juniors for another year,” says Davis. “I cannot wait to get back into the show ring. We also have some really amazing young horses right now who are coming up through the ranks and, who knows, one of them might be a right fit for me.
“Competing in Europe has always been a personal goal. If the opportunity arises I would love to go. My parents have been more than supportive. In Summer 2010, we came to New Jersey to train with Cesar for a summer and three years later, we are still here. We gave up our home and where I grew up in the pursuit of my dream, and I will be forever grateful to them for allowing me to follow that.
The team at Piaffe Performance is so supportive and helpful; it is really like they are my second family. When somebody does well or wins, the team celebrates like it is their own personal success. Cesar is an amazing coach and incredible trainer; he is always there for me. He is also there making sure that the horses are healthy and well taken care of because their welfare is the most important thing. (Piaffe-Performance senior trainer) Katie Riley has also been there for me since day one. She is my rock; she is there no matter what. She is so encouraging and positive - I owe her huge thanks for believing in me.”
The support, at home and at Piaffe-Performance, this former pony rider finds is giving her free rein to continue to dream big: “I have always wanted to represent America in the Olympics, as well as the World Equestrian and Pan American Games. I would love to represent my country overseas and compete in Grand Prix and small tour as a professional.
“But first,” says the pragmatic teen, “I am looking forward to finishing high school. Then continuing my education, as an equestrienne and as an academic. I also would like to thank my parents, Michael and Sarah, my coach and trainer, Cesar Parra, the entire Performance Farm team, and all of my sponsors: Cavalleria Toscana, Kep Italia Helmets, Trilogy Saddlery and Pana Cavallo. Without them my success would not be possible.”
Follow Bebe Davis and Rotano's continued success and learn more about dressage training, lessons and sale prospects available through Piaffe-Performance Dressage at http://piaffe-performance.com/.