Batavia, Ohio – Michael Barisone and Neruda returned to the CDI Grand Prix ring for the first time in several months and hovered just below first place. They lost out one blue ribbon to George Williams and Rocher who were back in action in the U.S. They only returned to America one week ago from a two-month training trip to Europe that seems to have paid off. They won Friday’s CDI Grand Prix at the Paxton Farm CDI***/CDIY/CDIJ but only after the technical marks broke their tie with Barisone and Neruda. Both Williams and Barisone had scored a 67.542 percent.
“I’m very happy with her,” Williams said of his Grand Prix partner. “She felt very good, especially considering that she just got home from Europe on Friday.” While in Europe, Williams trained with Klaus Balkenhol and at the end of the trip, he and Rocher competed in the CDI in Hagen. Although they finished in the top 15, their scores were not the best, causing Williams to aim to better his scores at Paxton.
“Overall, I was very pleased with her at Hagen, but the piaffe and passage work lacked a bit of impulsion. She didn’t stay in front of me as much as she can. We scored around a 65 percent, which was a little disappointing to me, but I was happy with how she felt through the test,” Williams said of the 17-year-old Westfalen mare owned by Chuck and Joanne Smith of Gypsy Woods Farm. Cathy Connelly was on hand at paxtom working with George and the popular mare.
One of America’s leading dressage horses, Rocher had been sidelined for long stretches over the past few years due to injuries, but Williams is now confident she’s fully recovered and up to the challenge of international competition. He and Rocher are aiming for the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Dressage Championships and Olympic Selection Trials in California in June. Prior to that, they’ll compete at the CDI in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Rocher is doing very well. I think she’s continuing to improve and to get stronger all the time,” Williams said. “I took a lot of time bringing her back very slowly and very methodically with the goal of first bringing her to a certain level of strength and then move her back up from there. And I think it’s working very well.”
Rocher has been back on the show circuit for about eight months and thus far, holding up great. When asked how it has felt these past months to be competing again with his popular partner, Williams said there were no words to describe it. “In general, this sport has so many ups and downs and when you’re down, you have to be forever optimistic. And when you are able to bring them back, it really makes you appreciate the horse and the whole process that much more,” he said.