Gladstone, New Jersey – It seemed for Courtney King that nothing was certain any hour of the day during competition at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions, until the very end when she emerged the Grand Prix Freestyle winner and overall Grand Prix reserve champion.
When the final scores were tallied, King and the 17-year-old Dutch stallion Idocus finished just behind champions Steffen Peters and Lombardi II. King and Idocus won the final leg of the competition – the Grand Prix Freestyle – with a score of 78.00 percent. Peters and Lombardi finished in second with a score of 76.40 percent. The Freestyle counted for 20 percent of the final score.
On Friday, King and Peters tied in the Grand Prix Special, which counted for 35 percent of the final score, with a 71.60 percent. Peters was ultimately given the win in that battle because FEI rules require that in the case of a tie, the Collective Marks determine the outcome. Peters had four 8s and one 9 to King’s five 8s. Thursday’s Grand Prix, which counted for 45 percent of the final score, is where King lost the most. Peters finished first with a 70.417 percent, but King was down in fifth place with a score of 64.458.
That poor showing was a result of Idocus being under the weather from a busy breeding season. He arrived at Gladstone already not at his best. He had issues with dehydration and was clearly uncomfortable, King had said. After Thursday’s rough go, King even considered pulling him from the remaining two days of competition. But she said a combination of fluids, massage and chiropractic helped to pull him through.
“All I could do after the first day was have the vets look at him and see if there was any relief we could give him for the pain in his back. And then all I could do was get on the next day and ride him and just try to do the best we could,” she said.
By Friday, the stallion (by Equador out of Eretha), owned by Christine McCarthy, was recovered enough to tie for first. By Saturday’s Freestyle. he was back in top form and King was clearly thrilled. “When I did the first Grand Prix I thought, ‘I’m not even going to make it through this competition.’ But he was that much better each day, I couldn't have asked for me.”
As the pair entered the ring, it was immediately apparent that Idocus was getting back to his old self. As she circled the ring, he seemed much brighter, more up, and jumped to Courtney's leg with energy. The Freestyle victory was important King said because “I was looking for an opportunity to redeem ourselves from the humiliation of the day before. For the Freestyle, we’ve done it a few times now and I’m getting more comfortable riding him with more risk. That’s the highest score we’ve gotten in the freestyle.”
Thundering Storm Stops Competition Just as Kristina Harrison-Nanes and Rociero XV Begin to Enter Arena
King and Idocus made it through their freestyle just moments before a thundering summer rain storm that actually stopped the competition, leaving the last three riders waiting out the rain. The large number of spectators were herded into the rotunda of the historical building which houses the USET offices and barns. And almost everyone remained, for the final three rides of the day. For third-place finisher Kristina Harrison-Nanes that meant warming up the 12-year-old PRE stallion Rociero XV (Rociero VIII out of Bombardina II) twice. It didn't affect them much. Their Freestyle score was 71.950 giving them an overall third-place score of 69.527.
“I went back to the barn and said, ‘I’ve got to pull it together.’ And I listened to rock music. And thought, ‘I’ll have to come back out here and do it again.’ I was already warmed-up and walking in the arena when they cancelled it. He usually has a bit more to give and was a little tired but for having warmed-up twice I couldn’t ask for more,” said Harrison-Nanes.
The spectators, back in their seats, greeted the pair with huge cheers and applause as the duo entered the arena. Harrison-Nanes rode her freestyle to music specially composed for her by Karl Preusser and recorded live by an orchestra in Prague. When asked why such an elaborate composition for her music, she replied “because if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it right.”
Steffen Peters and Lombardi II Win Overall Grand Prix Championship
Peters has won the Grand Prix championship twice at Gladstone before, but he said every win is special. “It’s always very, very special. This arena has so much history. It’s always a great accomplishment to win here and certainly the girls gave me a good run for my money, especially today.”
Considering that for some time he wasn’t sure if Lombardi II would make it as a Grand Prix horse, Peters couldn’t have been more pleased with the horse. Their Freestyle ride was to the music of River Dance and while Terri Gallo helped with music, Peters said the choreography is his.
Both Peters and Harrison-Nanes are now making plans to head to Europe and they’ll most likely compete in Aachen. But for King, the issue of Aachen and Europe was one more up-and-down issue she dealt with throughout the Festival competition. Originally, she and Idocus were planning a trip to Europe with a run for the 2008 Olympics a possibility. However, after the experience at Gladstone, the trip is no longer a certainty.
King said the future “is little tricky right now.” The problem is that McCarthy, the stallion’s owner, has contracts to breed Idocus that were made long before any thought that the horse might show in Aachen. The experience at Gladstone showed that the stallion can’t really keep up both his breeding schedule and a show schedule.
“Christine has made contracts and Aachen was not in her plans at the time,” King said. “So, if she can’t get out of the contracts to breed him, then there’s no sense in taking him over if he’s going to have to go through everything he just went through.”
Balkenhol and McCarthy have discussed the situation and King said all are trying to find a solution. If she gets to Aachen, she’ll be excited but King said she accepts that it might not happen.
McCarthy was on hand to watch her stallion compete and she said that everyone is “working on the logistics of a European trip.” And as of Saturday afternoon, she said “it’s looking pretty positive. The breeders are being pretty understanding of his showing and of having to work around that.”
McCarthy’s view is that breeders actually benefit if Idocus competes and shows well. It’s clear that she’s quite happy with both her horse and her rider. “Courtney’s a great rider and Idocus is a great horse. You can’t ask for more.”
Kassie Barteau Best of the Young Riders
by Joanie Morris for USEF
The Young Riders completed their championship to lead off the third day of competition. Kasandra Barteau, of Gilberts, IL, the winner of the first test on Thursday stood out again and was much the best with Gabriella – finishing the second day of competition with a score of 68.55%.
Gabriella, a 15-year-old Hanoverian mare moved happily through the test, and although they lacked a little of the accuracy demonstrated on Thursday, both horse and rider seemed to thoroughly enjoy themselves. Gabriella was rewarded with a huge hug at the end of her test. Their two-day score of 69.3% left them the clear winners of the Young Riders Championships.
"I'm very, very happy and excited and pleased with my horse," said Barteau. "She worked really well. It's definitely exciting, I'm really excited, even more so now, for young rider's next month. My goal is to keep being here and hopefully do the Brentina Cup and then it would be amazing if I could eventually do the small tour. I really know my mare and I think that's a real benefit."
Overall, Ashley Schempp and the 13-year-old KWPN gelding Mowgli from Encinitas, CA were fifth in Saturday's competition but were able to hang on to their second place finish overall with their score of 65.6%.
"Today was not as up to par as it was on Thursday," said Schemmp. "He got a little long which makes it a little harder to get the changes. It's definitely a little hard for me. Overall I can't believe it was a possibility to rank that high. They really make you work for it. It's a great group of girls."
Schempp was impressed with the camaraderie and professionalism on the East Coast and with the Festival in general.
"It's top notch," she said. "I'm very gracious just to be here, coming from California, I've heard the names and it was great to get a chance to meet some of the riders,"
Third overall in the Young Riders Championship was Hannah Shook and Capetown, Like Schemmp, they didn't quite match their performance of the previous day but it was good enough for third.
Runner-up on the day with a score of 66.6% was Jocelyn Weise from Keene, NH. With her 11-year-old Danish Warmblood Lamborghini she executed very good trot work and lots of 7s for her flying changes. In third was Caroline Roffman and Rigaudon. They put in a very workmanlike performance and improved their score by three points from the first day. On a final mark of 66.35% they slipped into third.
Lauren Sammis Turns Tables on Hickey in Pan Am Selection Trial
By Joanie Morris for USEF
Two little horses got big scores in the Intermediaire I test, serving as the second leg of the Pan American Games Selection Trials. Hyperion Farm's 16.1 hand Sagacious HF, ridden by Lauren Sammis, tried as hard as he could and was rewarded with a score of 72.3%. A local New Jersey rider, Sammis was greeted with plenty of praise upon completing her test. 27-year-old Katherine Poulin-Neff and the even more diminutive Brilliant Too grew in stature when they cruised down the centerline and into third place. The winners on Thursday – Christopher Hickey and Regent split the pair of smaller horses for second.
In second after the first day of competition, the 8-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Sagacious HF, demonstrated very strong half pass and pirouettes. Marred by two small mistakes, he and Sammis received 8s and 9s in their collective marks which more than made up for the bobbles.
"I knew after I messed up that change that I had to get 9s on my pirouettes," said Sammis who has a very active sales business in New Jersey. "He just tries so hard. The whole horse has changed so dramatically. He just feels really, really great. He learned how to passage and that's a big thing for a horse going from Prix St George to Grand Prix. That's when your horse is really learning to collect. Its this new button that has just appeared. It gives a horse a lot more expression."
Hickey put in another animated effort with Regent to switch places with Sammis and end up second on a score of 71.4%. Lots of animation from the flashy 9-year-old Dutch gelding held the judges' attention for the second time The pair received very good marks on some of their canter work and pirouettes. Lower marks on the half-pass in the trot and a couple of mistakes in the extended canter allowed Sammis the lead.
"I added a little more power to my horse today," said Hickey. "Thursday I did a fairly quiet conservative test and today I felt like we were in a good enough spot to add a little more power and add a little more risk. There were a few places that I did a little too much risk. Too much risk in the extended canter, too much risk in the two-tempis, they got a little big for my own good. You need more risk to bring your scores up in this sport but it needs to be smartly channeled. But I'm very pleased with my horse."
Hickey, who is the resident trainer at Hilltop Farm in Colora, MD rode Brenna Kucinski's gelding to another very solid performance. Hickey was gracious in expressing his gratitude to all of his supporters.
Standing at only 15.2 hands, Brilliant Two, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood/Thoroughbred Cross, is by Brilliant out of the Thoroughbred mare, Brigetta. He and Poulin-Neff stepped up their performance from the opening day and were rewarded with their score of 70.7%.
"I took a little more risk today," Poulin-Neff explained. "In the Prix St. George I was nervous and I made a mistake and I typically do better in the Intermediaire than I do in the Prix St. George. Overall I was really happy with him. He had no mistakes, he was very fluid. He listened to me. I was really happy with my ride."
The number of entries for the final leg of the tomorrow's Pan American Selection Trial, the Intermediaire Freestyle has changed. Carol Lavell's horse Much Ado has fallen ill and Susan Halasz felt her horse, Paradiso B, was not up to his normal performance today. Upon the advice of the veterinarians both have been withdrawn. Ten horses will now compete in tomorrow's Intermediaire Freesyle.