At the Eastern States Dressage and Combined Training Association (ESDCTA) Memorial Day Weekend Show, held May 25-27 at the Horse Park of New Jersey at Stone Tavern in Allentown, Courtney King has completed her qualifiers with these two mounts and earned the ranking of second in the nation in Grand Prix and first in the nation in Intermediaire I heading into the USEF National Dressage Championships, which will be held June 14-17 at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions presented by Paul Miller Auto Group in Gladstone, New Jersey.
On the recommendation of U.S. Dressage Chef d'Equipe Klaus Balkenhol, King has withdrawn from the I-I Championship/Pan American Games Selection Trials with Richard Malloch's Mythilus, and 5th ranked Rendezvous 5, owned by Francine Walker and will instead travel to Europe to compete with her Grand Prix star, Christine McCarthy's stallion, Idocus in preparation for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. King is hoping to bring at least Mythilus along and perhaps more horses from her powerhouse stable. She is also planning on competing Idocus at the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage National Grand Prix Dressage Championships June 14-17 before leaving for Germany. Courtney will be joining Steffen Peters and Lombardi, and Arlene Page and Wild One, Catherine Haddad and Cadillac, and other US Riders in Europe to gain more valued international experience.
King competed five horses at the three-day show, including her World Cup mount Idocus and her Pan American Games candidate Mythilus.
In the Memorial Day Weekend High Performance classes aboard Idocus, King won the FEI Grand Prix on Friday with a score of 68.472%. The duo came back on Saturday to perform even better, winning the FEI Grand Prix Special with 71.267%. Idocus is a 17-year-old Dutch stallion by Equador owned by Christine McCarthy. King and Idocus needed one qualifying score in the Grand Prix Special to be invited as one of the top 12 combinations in the U.S. who will compete in the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Grand Prix Championship and they accomplished that mission.
"Idocus felt amazing at this show - much better than at the World Cup," King said. "For the Grand Prix he warmed up awesome and I was really looking forward to showing him off in the ring, but the footing in the show arena was dramatically different from the warm-up footing - much deeper - and Idocus decided it was a little too hard, so to be honest his Grand Prix performance was disappointing. He just sort of deflated." Despite his aversion to the footing, Idocus earned 68.472% and won the class. King explained that she let her beloved "Idy" know that she was not pleased by withholding his usual treat and constant attention. "And I NEVER pass that horse without giving him attention normally," King shared. "The next day for the Special, he warmed up just the same - awesome - and when we went into the show arena, he powered up even more. He is such an amazingly intelligent and emotionally mature horse," King related. "He got my meaning loud and clear. I spoil him rotten, so I guess it was fair enough that he was pushing where I drew the line." The duo won the Special with 71.267%.
Mythilus Rules in the Intermediaire Division and King Hopes to Compete Him at Aachen as Well
"It was an incredibly difficult decision. No chance for a medal, King's long time trainer and mentor Lendon Gray told DressageDaily. "But it is an opportunity to compete against many of the best riders in the world, at Aachen CHIO."
Riding Mythilus, a 13-year-old Dutch gelding by Ferro owned by Richard Malloch, King competed in the trio of small tour High Performance classes and claimed victory in two out of three. In the FEI Prix St. Georges, King and Mythilus earned 73.250% for first place. In the FEI Intermediare I, King and "Myth" notched another victory, scoring 71.167%. Rounding out the small tour classes, King and Mythilus executed a dramatic FEI Intermediate Freestyle and scored an impressive 73.167%, but were just edged into second place by .803%.
"Mythilus I was thrilled with," King enthused. "Since coming home from California with him, he has had a major breakthrough in throughness and softness. He's been amazing. I went to the show saying, 'Okay, now it's time to take chances and push my boundaries to see what I can get at Gladstone. And that's what we did. Our risks paid off in the St. Georges - it was really good. In the Intermediaire, I went for a 9 on the extended canter and nearly got it, but my first half halt bringing him back caused him to swap behind and then he just got all flustered, so we had a couple little lines we really found the boundary not to push. It was well worth it."
King noted that Mythilus had outgrown the freestyle she had debuted this past winter in Florida. "The tempo was completely wrong, which I anticipated but not as dramatically, and the choreography was far too simplistic for him now," King explained. "We did it that way on purpose at the beginning of the season because frankly I wasn't at all certain I could get him around a St. Georges test at that point. But times have changed. I totally revamped the kur when I got home."
Officiating for all of the High Performances classes at the ESDCTA Memorial Day Weekend show were Axel Steiner (S), Lorraine MacDonald, and Lilo Fore.
"I felt very ready coming into Gladstone and very excited," King said after the Memorial Day show. While preparing for the championships with Coach Balkenhol at the Gladstone facility the week before the championships, King withdrew from the Pan Am Selection Trials due to the scheduling conflicts - the Pan Am Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, take place July 14-29, and the World Equestrian Festival CDIO3* in Aachen, Germany, will be held July 3-8. "I tried to figure out a way to do both, but it is not possible," King explained. King was qualified for the I-I championships with two horses - Mythilus and Rendezvous 3 owned by Francine Walker. King said she very much wanted to compete the two horses in the Championships, but that there was a silver lining to the decision to withdraw. "The good thing is that now I can start to gear them up for the Grand Prix," she said. "It was an extremely hard decision, but Klaus's advice was to do Aachen because one year before the Olympics it is very important to be in front of the European judges."
ESDCTA Memorial Day Open Division - King Keeps on Winning
In the Open Division at the show, King competed Virginia Easley's Jubilant and Wendy Luscomb's Tsunami, and in the FEI Young Horse Division she rode Harmony's Wyoming. King and her mounts racked up victories each day of the show.
Aboard Tsunami, a seven-year-old Arabian/Dutch warmblood gelding by Idocus owned by Wendy Luscombe, King won three of the four classes entered. The duo won USEF Third Level Test 3 on Friday with a score of 69.535%. They came back on Saturday to notch a victory in USEF Third Level Test 1, scoring 72.564%. They also contested USEF Third Level Test 3 again, this time claiming second place with 67.907%. King and Tsunami returned to the ring on Sunday, and once again rode USEF Third Level Test 3, this time claiming victory with an impressive 70.698%.
"Tsunami is definitely settling in," King related, adding, "His owner has decided to sell him though because she never rides him and she has some health problems that are probably going to prevent her from riding him."
Riding Jubilant, an eight-year-old Oldenburg stallion by Don Schufro owned by Anne H. Wood and Virginia Easley, King earned a hattrick of blue ribbons. This duo won USEF Fourth Level Test 3 on Friday, scoring 71.707%. They came back on Saturday for their debut performance in the FEI ranks and claimed victory in the FEI Prix St. Georges with a score of 68.750%. On Sunday, King and "Eubie" made it three for three, winning the FEI Prix St. Georges with a remarkable 70.000%.
"I was thrilled with Jubilant. He has made a huge leap and is truly feeling like an FEI horse," King said. "He has a lot of quality, and for a long horse he is surprising me all the time how much he can sit and push."
King and her own Harmony's Wyoming, a six-year-old Hanoverian gelding by Weltmeyer, contested one class during the weekend and placed third in the FEI Young Horse Test of Choice. The duo performed the FEI 6 Year Old Finale Test to a score of 72.600%. "That was also very useful," King explained, relating, "When I was in California, Steffen [Peters] really helped me to get the trot big and cadenced. But unfortunately in gaining the trot quality, I lost the walk for now. He is using his body in a whole new way and he doesn't have the strength to sustain it yet. Axel [Steiner] and Lilo [Fore] were the judges for the class, and they were both extremely helpful and positive about the horse. They gave his trot 8.5, which no one would have believed he could do even six months ago. They said this is a great horse for the future, and they gave me the confidence to talk to Wyoming's sponsor and suggest that the Young Horse Championships [in Verden, Germany] timing is not right for Wyoming. He needs to figure out this new body, and I am concerned about pushing him because of the danger of the walk. His sponsors were 100% behind the decision. We want a great Grand Prix horse, and we would do the Young Horse stuff as long as it was supporting that future, but not at its detriment."
King was pleased with her 10 victories at the ESDCTA Memorial Day Weekend show. "Overall I was thrilled with the show," she enthused. "It gave me the chance to see what I could do with Myth. Idocus hates the Special, so I was very concerned about that, and he was a star. And the younger guys are climbing the ranks admirably!"
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