The Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI****/CDIY was held March 1, 2 and 3 at The Horse Park at Equestrian Estates in Loxahatchee, Florida. Competitions included qualifying classes for the USET Grand Prix Championship and World Equestrian Games Selection Trials to be held at Gladstone in June. Thirty mile per hour winds on Friday and Saturday had horses and riders battling their way upwind, but despite weather that would give most mounts a day off, competitors showed an international panel of judges that WEG hopefuls can stand up to a challenge.
Betsy Steiner and Rainier won the Grand Prix on Saturday with a score of 71.24%. The pair also won the Grand Prix Special on Sunday with a 70.60%. They were awarded the High Point Grand Prix Trophy for the combined scores of their two CDI classes. Mary Anne and Walter McPhail, who hosted the show at their facility, presented the trophy. Shauna Baur awarded Steiner and Ranier the Gifted Memorial Trophy for their Grand Prix Special.
"I was shaking with excitement when I got the [Grand Prix] test back and found two 9s for two different piaffes," said Steiner. "Throughout his entire piaffe/passage in the Grand Prix he got 8s for the piaffe/passage transitions." According to Steiner, above and beyond the thrill of high scores and awards, she appreciated how her relationship with Rainier became more solid at this show. "This past weekend it felt to me like the beginning of a real partnership." She described the point in her Grand Prix test when she had to let go of the reins for the extended walk in wind that was bending the palm trees around the ring. She said she mentally asked Rainier how he would be " … and he said back to me, 'Come on, trust me, it's okay, you can believe in me.' And I did, and it was this wonderful bonding moment. Throughout the rest of the test, (he said) 'trust me', and I kept saying, 'ok you can trust me too'. There were moments when I felt like one with him … that kind of feeling, it's what you work your whole career for."
Rainier, a 10-year old Oldenburg gelding (Rolando x Elinora) owned by Jane Clark of New York City, was on the USET Bronze Medal Dressage Team at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games with his former rider, five-time Olympian Robert Dover. Steiner, 51, of Wellington, Florida, got the ride on Rainier a year ago. Dover, who still has Rainier in his barn, is Steiner's trainer and coach, as well as her long-time friend. Steiner works with a sports psychologist and practices pilates to keep herself mentally and physically in shape to cope with the pressures of riding an Olympic horse that is currently aimed at the 2002 World Equestrian Games and the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Because he knows the horse so well, Dover has saved Steiner a year in terms of figuring out how to ride Rainier. "Robert is an incredible teacher. He doesn't miss a thing. He's very intelligent in his teaching," said Steiner, who operates her own training business in Florida and New Jersey. "I think it must be very difficult to have a horse like Rainier and let somebody else be riding him. Yet he's so supportive and he wants to see the combination of Rainier and I do the very, very best. That's a pretty good character that will allow that. I really admire that."
Steiner said she has opportunities ahead of her on the international scene with Rainier and hopes to continue to deepen her partnership with him. "Let's face it - that's a team horse. He's certainly absolute quality. I love showing. I love going in the ring - and what a magnificent partner to have."