Saugerties, N.Y. – Canadians were the strong contenders in CDI competition at this year’s New England Dressage Association Fall Festival of Dressage, winning two of three CDI grand prix classes. Each of the three top spots in CDI competition were won by different riders.
The lone American winner in CDI grand prix competition was PJ Rizvi, who took the win in the CDI Grand Prix on her 16-year- old KWPN gelding Breaking Dawn, which had previous been competed by Olympian Ashley Holzer, who is based in New York City at Riverdale Stables, which is also where Rizvi rides.
The CDI Grand Prix Special was won by Canadian Olympian Belinda Trussell. Trussell won with Tattoo 15 and a score of 69.706. Trussell also won the CDI Intermedaire I with Carlucci with a score of 71.974. The CDI Grand Prix Freestyle was won by another Canadian who works with Holzer and that was Brittany Fraser. She took the win with All In and a score of 75.090.
Rizvi, of Greenwich, Conn., has owned Breaking Dawn, a 16-year- old KWPN gelding for years, but has only been consistently working with him this past year. The pair spent this past summer competing and training in Europe and Rizvi said it was a good decision.
“We did three shows in Europe and that was my first time showing in Europe. It was an incredible learning experience. It helped me develop my skills as a rider and to become more harmonious with him.” Rizvi said Breaking Dawn, who she refers to as “Edward” tended to make decisions ahead of her and the European trip helped fix that. “Edward is always ready to go forward. During our time in Europe we developed the aid of waiting. Now he’s waiting more for me. We’ve become more of a team and during our grand prix ride he waited for me. He has a great passage and piaffe and that really came through.”
What has made competing at the NEDA Fall Festival even more fun, Rizvi said, is that she is competing in classes with all of her friends. “Ashley (Holzer) is my best friend and trainer. And Brittany Fraser is also my best friend. We all ride together at the same barn.” Rizvi placed ahead of Holzer in the Grand Prix but said it was only because Holzer was on a young horse – the 10-year- old Hanoverian mare Havanna. “It won’t take Ashley long to catch up because she is such an incredible rider. It makes me nervous being in the same class with her because she could be on a donkey and I’d be nervous about her.”
Fraser, winner of the CDI Grand Prix Freestyle echoed Rizvi’s comments about Holzer’s group of students. “The grand prix class was mostly Ashley’s students and we’re all friends. We’re a close group and really enjoy working together. She is very giving and puts 100 percent into her students.”
Rizvi rode Breaking Dawn early in his career but when he was ready for Grand Prix, she had Holzer take him out first. He did so well that Holzer qualified with him for the 2012 London Olympics. After the Olympics, Breaking Dawn was out of competition for more than a year with an injury. When he came back into competition, Rizvi took over the ride. She calls him her “once in a lifetime horse.”
For her part, Fraser was thrilled with her Grand Prix Freestyle win with her 12-year- old KWPN gelding All In. They won with a score of 75.090, which Fraser said was a personal best. “This was my third time riding this freestyle (designed by Joost Peters) and I was really pleased with how it went. He was really focused on me. I feel more confident now with the pattern and the music as we head to Devon.”
NEDA was Fraser and All In’s first show since returning from Europe. She has been working with the gelding since he was five and has brought him from training level to grand prix. “We’ve had quite a journey together. This horse took me to the Pan American Games where we won a team Silver Medal. He’s a great horse. He comes out and wants to do his job. He’s taken me around the world and has been a great travel partner.”
Fraser, who has shown at NEDA for many years, said it’s one of her favorite shows because of the friendly staff and because so many of her friends also attend the show. “It’s a great place to show and see all of my friends.” After Devon, Fraser will return to her base in Canada before heading to Florida for the winter season. Her goal is to qualify to represent Canada in the World Equestrian Games. Trussell, who is based in Stouffville, Ontario and trains with Christilot Boylen, was thrilled with her win in the CDI Grand Prix Special. “This is Tattoo’s first season in grand prix and I feel like a freshman in college still getting our feet wet. We seem to have had little errors along the way but in today’s test we had less of those.”
Trussell said during her days at NEDA, Tattoo clearly showed improvement in his changes and canter tour. She said the show gave her good feedback from judges on where the horse needs to improve as the pair prepares for the winter show season. “He needs to get more over his back and supple and I can feel that for sure. But wherever you are in the training, there is always another level you have to reach. He is definitely getting more expression all the time,” Trussell said. “I always find that the first year at grand prix is as a bit of shock for them because of the physical fitness they need. But I didn’t feel him tire in the tests this weekend like he did last season so he is getting stronger.”
Trussell has owned the 14-year- old Westfalian gelding since he was 10 and at the time was at Prix St. Georges. But he had some health issues in their first years together, including having colic surgery. “The first years we had some ups and downs,” she said. “It feels so good to be at this point now and he’s healthy. I feel grateful that I have this horse and he is officially a grand prix horse.”