Devon, PA— The Dressage at Devon performance division kicked off today with a Prix St. Georges class that ran from morning until night before Heather Blitz topped the field of 35 riders. Many of the competitors were thinking ahead to next summer, as Dressage at Devon serves as one of the early qualifiers for the Pan American Games. The international classes continued under the lights with two Grand Prix classes, won by Catherine Haddad and Shawna Harding, along with horse-themed entertainment and the 35th Anniversary party.
Grand Prix for Freestyle
Leading the victory gallop in the Grand Prix for Freestyle was American Catherine Haddad riding Winyamaro. Although Haddad has won many classes in Europe, this was the first time the expatriate has heard her national anthem on U.S. soil in more than a decade. “I’m really, really happy to be home,” she said. “It felt great!”
Haddad was very enthusiastic about her young grand prix horse. The 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Walt Disney I not only demonstrated the active hind leg needed by a top Grand Prix horse, but also a remarkable work ethic. She explained, “His character is absolutely golden. He loves to do this work.”
Joe Sandven riding Rachmaninoff, a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Rubinstein, took home the red ribbon with a 67.106. Ute Busse finished third with 64.766%.
Grand Prix For Special
In the qualifier for the Special, Shawna Harding and her Grand Prix partner Come On III clinched the 1st place position with a 65.149% over second placed Tina Irwin and Alex Robertson, who finished third. While she saw some room from improvements, Harding was pleased with Come On’s efforts. “I’m really happy with my horse,” she said. Although he competed in the selection trials for the, this is only the 11-year-old gelding’s first year at Grand Prix. She continued, “He’s just now figuring out the Grand Prix. He’s only getting stronger.”
This was Harding’s first trip to the Dixon Oval. “It was a fantastic atmosphere,” she said. “[My horse] was really electric.” The Aiken, SC resident is looking forward to competing tomorrow. “The Special has been his stronger test,” she explained.
Prix St. Georges
Heather Blitz and Paragon handily won the large Prix St. Georges class with a 72.263%. Although this was only Paragon’s fourth show, he rose to the challenge and delivered a test full of high point moments. “The whole test was a highlight to me,” said a clearly pleased Blitz. She particularly enjoyed the second extended trot, pirouettes and tempi-changes. “They were really big and expressive,” she commented.
While some riders have worked with their horses for years, Blitz can say that she has been with her horse since before he was a twinkle in his mom’s eye. “I designed him,” she says of the 7-year-old Danish gelding. “I was there when he was born.” Blitz rode Paragon’s mother, Pari Lord, and recognized that the mare would be a nice cross with Don Schufro. Oak Hill Ranch believed in Blitz’s plan and made the match. The resulting 17.3 hand gelding has exceeded Heather’s expectations.
“He combines relaxation and expression more than any horse I’ve ever ridden,” she explained. “He was born to do this.” While his expressive gaits are surely a highlight, it’s his temperament that separates him from the pack. “He’s really a very mellow-minded horse. He has enjoyed the cooler weather here and he has felt fantastic.” After Dressage at Devon, Blitz plans to aim for the Florida circuit with an eye on London in 2012.
Finishing second to Blitz with a 69.895% was Kassandra Barteau with Toscano. Perennial DAD winner Cesar Parra, and Olympia, claimed the yellow ribbon with a 69.632%.
Young Rider and Junior Tests
In the FEI Young Rider Team Test, Meagan Davis and Bentley received a 67.368% and the blue ribbon. The pair, who has been together for two years, was particularly strong in the tempi changes and the half-pass. “We’ve really developed our partnership,” said the Stone Ridge, NY resident. Davis continues to work with Lendon Gray with the goal of competing in the small tour classes in 2011.
Julia Burtt clinched the Junior Team Test with a score of 64.685%. Burtt describes her horse Aaron VI as a very levelheaded, steady guy who’s really talented. “He’s honestly the coolest horse I’ve ever had,” said the 16-year-old. “I was so proud of him.” In addition to being a top-level dressage horse, Aaron VI happily gives rides to Burtt’s older brother, and will even let her and her friend Meagan Davis ride double.
It wasn’t all competition at Dressage at Devon. Ladies Hat Day once again provided top- notch entertainment. Among the creative millinery concoctions were hats topped with a squirrel and a turkey.