Canadian Julia Vysniauskas Celebrates Grand Prix Dressage Debut

Canadian dressage rider Julia Vysniauskas made her Grand Prix debut at the Wellington Dressage competition held January 30 to February 2 in Wellington, Florida.

At just 21 years of age, Vysniauskas of Cochrane, AB, contested the Grand Prix to earn a score of 62.50% from the panel of international judges. The score placed Vysniauskas in fourth position from a field of nine competitors that included fellow Canadian Ashley Nicole Holzer of Toronto, ON, who finished third with her 2002 World Equestrian Games mount, Imperioso.

In the Grand Prix Freestyle to music, Vysniauskas was awarded a score of 63.37% for her choreographed program to finish third. Well-known international competitor Patrick Brussens of Mexico won the class. Earlier in the week, Vysniauskas competed in the Intermediare II class where she was fourth.

Vysniauskas’ partner, Syntax, was also making his grand prix debut, having never before competed at the Olympic level of dressage. The 11-year-old dark bay gelding was born in Slovenia and is registered as Czechoslovakian. Vysniauskas purchased the horse in Holland on the advice of her trainer, 1991 Pan American Games double gold medallist, Lorraine Stubbs.

“It was my first grand prix ever, so I was really nervous!” said Vysniauskas, who holds dual citizenship with Canada and her family’s home country of Lithuania. “I was competing against some big names in the sport, people who have been doing it for a long time. My goal was to go in there and be kind to my horse and if he makes a mistake, that’s okay. It’s his first grand prix too! I was so focused on my horse, I didn’t even realize the crowd was there!

“I was happy with my ride, Lorraine was really happy with my ride, and the score was just a bonus,” continued Vysniauskas, who believes her horse’s talent for the difficult movements of piaffe and passage contributed to their result. “I think a score of 62.50% for your first grand prix is respectable. And, being only 21, I was also the youngest person in the grand prix.”

With Syntax, Vysniauskas goal for the 2003 season is to earn enough points in World Cup Qualifying competitions to be among the top five Canadian riders invited to the Swarovski Canadian League World Cup Final held at Toronto’s Royal Horse Show in November.

In addition to making her grand prix debut at the Wellington Dressage competition, Vysniauskas also contested the advanced division with Freuden Tanzer, her 13-year-old black Hannoverian gelding. From a large field of 23 competitors, Vysniauskas and Freuden Tanzer, better known as ‘Dancer’, placed seventh in the Prix St. Georges with a score of 65.63%. In the Intermedaire I, Vysniauskas was again seventh, this time scoring 62.25%.

With Freuden Tanzer, Vysniauskas hopes to qualify for this summer’s Pan American Games to be held in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, in August. Although she has represented Canada at two North American Young Riders’ Championships, including in 2001 when she narrowly missed winning the individual bronze medal, a berth on the 2003 Pan American Team would mark her first appearance riding on a senior team.

Vysniauskas credits her coach with the tremendous success she has experienced.

“She has done amazing work with both me and my horses, I can’t thank her enough for what she has done for me,” says Vysniauskas of her trainer, Stubbs, who operates Rockeden Farm in Rockwood, ON. “The horse is your teammate, and she has really helped me to develop communication and form that all-important partnership with my horses.”

She also recognizes the valuable role that family support plays.

“I have only been riding dressage for six years, and my mom made me realize how far I have come in such a short time,” says Vysniauskas, who is thankful for the support of her parents and three younger brothers. “It made me think that maybe this is something I can do!”

Her next competition will be the Florida Dressage Classic, February 13-16, at the Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club in Wellington, Florida.

Photo by Cealey Tetley

Related Links
Scores 2003 Dressage in Florida Circuit
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