Text and Photos (unless otherwise marked) by Eliza Sydnor
The end of May always means the CDI in Raleigh for me. I have been coming to this show since I was a little girl, and it is always wonderful to see so many familiar faces. But in the last 10 years or so, it has also meant getting to see some of the best dressage in the country. Friday's competition started off with a bang setting the stage for a full weekend of talent as competitors work hard to earn their way to the Collecting Gaits/USEF National Dressage Championships, being held next month in Gladstone, New Jersey, June 17-21.
The show here in Raleigh draws competitors from all up and down the east coast, and even from the mid-west. This year the competition is proving to be just as good as I’d hoped. And the weather gods are even cooperating! Usually it pours here in Raleigh, and the red clay soil turns everything I own a lovely reddish-brown. But this year we have sunny skies, and the temperatures aren’t even too hot! (Some of the New Englanders may disagree with me here…)
Janine Malone has run this show for as long as any of us can remember. With Bettina Longaker as secretary, they always do such an expert job and keep things running smoothly. This year the rings “on the hill” are closed, and the whole show is on the lower level of the complex, which makes it feel kind of cozy and smaller than usual.
Markel/USEF East Coast Young Horse Selection Trials
Right after lunch I sat down to watch the FEI 6 year old class, judged by Sandy Phillips and Charlotte Bredahl. This class was sponsored by Canaan Ranch. The young horse classes are always so enjoyable to watch because of the commentary from the judges at the end of the tests. Sandy Phillips was in charge of the microphone, and she did a very good job being direct put positive and kept her comments brief and to the point. The winner of the 6 year old class was Mikala Gunderson on Pikko Del Cerro HU. This lovely Hanoverian stallion (Pik L/Brentano II) is owned and bred by Anne Whitten of Horses Unlimited. Mikala competed him last year in the FEI 5 year old classes with great success.
He received an 8.5 for his very rhythmical, ground covering walk. In the trot he needed more engagement, especially in the extensions, but the rhythm was always regular and the contact was steady and light. The trot received a 7.6. In the canter, the judges gave him a 7.8 with the comments that he needed to be more uphill with better engagement, but they felt that it was just a matter of strength, and that he was very much on the right path. Submission was a 7.6 because of his loss of impulsion in both the walk pirouettes and the flying changes. But his overall willingness and good attitude was noted, along with his three fluid gaits, for a general impression score of 8. This left him with an overall score of 7.9
Second in the 6 year old class was JJ Tate on Wendy Costello’s Oldenburg stallion, Rosall. Rosall (Rosario/Akzent II) was imported from Germany almost two years ago. JJ found him as a three year old, but the owners agreed to leave him in Germany to complete his 30 day stallion test, which he won. Wendy and Marty Costello also own Donovan, another very successful breeding stallion whom JJ competed at the Grand Prix. Raleigh was Rosall’s first time out at a really big show, and JJ was thrilled with him. “I’m really, really happy. He was excited enough, but it was a happy, positive energy,” she said after her test. Rosall did not compete in the FEI 5 year old tests last year, because JJ said he just needed time to grow up. The stallion has filled out immensely in the last year, and JJ feels that the time spent last year competing at Training level allowed him to get stronger and mature mentally. She sees a big future for him and says she hopes to be back at this show one day to compete him in the Grand Prix! JJ is now based out of Riveredge in Chesapeake City, MD, where she works with Scott Hassler. Rosall got a 7.8 in the trot, 8 for both canter and walk, and a 7.5 for submission. The judges commented that the stallion had lots of potential and awarded him with a general impression score of 8, for a total score of 7.86.
Third in the 6 year olds, was Heather Mason with Warsteiner, a KWPN gelding by Riverman. He impressed the judges with his very active hind leg and uphill balance. He showed a lot of strength and power in the trot work, where the judges gave him an 8.5. He seemed to lose energy at the end of the canter work, however, and ended with an overall score of 7.64.
Five Year Old Class Introduces Talent
Immediately following the 6 year olds came the 5 year olds. This class was won by Nadine Schlonsok on Findamark. This lovely mare (Findermark/Argentinius) ended with a score of 7.6. Melanie Pai of Canaan Ranch is the owner and breeder and was thrilled with her win. She bred the mare in Germany, where she keeps a few brood mares, and then imported her as a yearling. Findamark has had much success in her young life, winning in hand at Devon as a two year old, and winning the Region 9 championships last year at Training level. Nadine Schlonsok has been riding the mare regularly since October of last year, when she moved from Germany to the US to ride full time for Melanie. Nadine is only 21 years old, and she is also competing in the Young Rider classes at Raleigh on Luke, and in the I-2 on Ikaros, both owned by Melanie. She was very happy with Findamark. “She is a little moody but a lot of fun,” she laughed, “She gave everything today!”
Melanie Pai has recently moved from Texas to Middleburg, VA. Eventually she hopes to move her whole breeding operation to Middleburg, but for now she still has her ranch in TX where she is breeding super quality young horses. She has many young horses that she hopes will be competing in the young horse classes next year. She is especially excited about Fernando, a coming 4 year old gelding by Florestan who she says is “really nice,” and whom she hopes Nadine will be competing next year in the FEI 5 year old classes.
Melanie seems especially excited to have Nadine riding her horses full time. They met through Melanie’s long time friend, Carla Symader, a judge and trainer in Germany. Nadine trained with Carla for over 10 years, and Melanie described her as Carla’s protégé. “She will hopefully take me back to the Olympics!” Melanie said, pointing at Nadine. Nadine just smiled and kept diligently shining her boots for her next class.
Second in the 5 year old class was Laura Wharton on Zandor. This horse is a really elegant KWPN gelding by Florencio, owned by Laura, from Woodstock, GA. They had some trouble dealing with nerves in the atmosphere of the coliseum, but the overall quality of Zandor shown through. They ended with a score of 7.52. Third was Erin Sweeny of Gordonsville, VA, on Rorick. This gelding (by Rienzi) is owned and bred by Marefield Meadows. They put in a very steady and correct test for a score of 7.12.
Sagacious Charms The Judges in the Grand Prix
There was a fairly good size crowd (for America…) on hand to watch the Grand Prix in the evening. Fifteen riders competed late into the night with their horses. The class was handily won by Lauren Sammis on Sagacious HF. They rode an almost error free test, with just one bobble in the last piaffe at X. Lauren and this horse look like they know and trust each other so much. The whole test was lovely, soft and easy looking. Sagacious is a 10 year old KWPN gelding by Welt Hit II, owned by Hyperion Farm. He competed on the US Team in the last Pan Am Games, and he is now proving himself to be just as successful at the Grand Prix. It is hard to believe that this pair just began competing at the Grand Prix this year. Sagacious looked confident and polished in all movements. He made beautiful pirouettes and will have a really exceptional passage as he continues to get stronger.
Second in the Grand Prix was Pierre St Jaques on Lucky Tiger. This pair ended with a score of 65.574. Lucky Tiger is a 14 year old Danish Warmblood by Lucky Light and is owned by Pierre. Now living full time in Ocala, Pierre is back in the limelight with his talented Pan American veteran as his horse contimues to build his strength. This pair also impressed with the ease of the movements. Pierre rode so quietly, with a soft and steady contact at all times. While Lucky Tiger is not perhaps as naturally talented as Sagacious, he seems to really put his heart into it and try for his rider. He has trouble in the piaffe and tends to drop his poll and pedestal at times. But Pierre rode this very carefully and skillfully and kept the horse’s confidence high as he rode back out into passage, which is a highlight for Lucky Tiger.
Prix St Georges Marks Cesar Parra's First CDI As an American
Friday the excitement began with a very large Prix St Georges class in the indoor coliseum. Twenty-three competitors from as far away as Vermont and Florida competed in this class which lasted all morning. Cesar Parra and Lori Washington’s gelding, Olympia, came out on top with a score of 69.386%. Olympia is a 13 year old Dutch gelding by the famous stallion, Jazz. This was Parra’s first big CDI win as an American citizen, and he looked very proud as the Star Spangled Banner played during the awards ceremony.
Second in the class was Richard Klaasen on Royal Flash 2, a 13 year old Bavarian Warmblood gelding owned by Stacy Klaasen. Richard traveled to Raleigh from Howell, NJ, with this lovely dark bay by Ragazzo. They scored a 66.579%. Right behind them in third was Barbara Strawson and Degas with a 66.491%. Degas is a 16 year old Hanoverian gelding owned by Marianne Campano from Washington DC.
Coming in third was Sharon McCusker on Juli Sherif. This 13 year old Danish gelding is by May Sherif and owned by Sharon, from Ashby, MA. Tomorrow night’s freestyle promises to be exciting. It will start at 8:00 pm and run late into the night.