Dressage at Flintridge Highlights Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Western Selection Trial

David Blake and Lord Albert Top Record Field of Five-Year-Olds

Dressage at Flintridge is one of the highlight shows of the California season. The luxurious, beautifully maintained grounds; the glorious flagstone clubhouse and old oaken sideboards; the sheer civility of the place. Everything combines to give a charm and depth to the long weekend, whether it is the gala Saturday night catered dinner, honoring the FEI freestyles, or the days full of top sport horses at all levels.

This year, the show hosted the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Western Selection Trial, as well as High Performance qualifiers for the National Championships for both Grand Prix and Intermediaire. Dressage in California continues to deliver top quality and high scores, adding to the roster of the Markel/Cornerstone High Performance Award Series.

McCool Photo: David Blake and Lord Albert with judging panel, Anne Gribbons, Jayne Ayers, and Janet Foy and John Seger of Markel

There was a record field of 15 entries in the Five-Year-Old Division at the Markel/USEF Young Horse Dressage Western Selection Trial reflecting the growth and strength of the three-year-old program.

Last year, David Blake took Catapult all the way to the National Young Horse Championships in Kentucky and came away with a blue ribbon, shared with friend and mentor David Wightman on Brigadier—the ‘two Davids’ were co-champions.

This year, David Blake was back at the Young Horse competition with a 5 year old, Lord Albert (Londonderry x Brentano II). “I found Albert at Steffen and Shannon Peters’ barn,” says Blake. “I loved his conformation, his gaits. He was a bit naughty, but his potential was so obvious, I decided I had to buy him. I just knew, if I could get him to focus and use his energy in a positive way, he could be brilliant.”

David Blake must have been right, because after three days of competition, he and Lord Albert got to wear the Champion’s ribbon, reversing the order of finish from DG Bar, where Willy Arts and his great mare, Valeska, won and Albert was reserve.

“I bought Albert the end of October, last year, and it took a while to get him to settle,” laughs Blake. “Every day, I try to make sure to get him working over his back, swinging and loose. I only concentrate on reactions and transitions for a few minutes, towards the end of a schooling session. I really want him to stay happy in the work.”

Blake knew he had a potentially great horse, but it took until this April and the Del Mar show for the pair to make their arena debut. They won the Five Year Old class there, and then went to DG Bar early May, where they were reserve to Valeksa.

“Flintridge was a great and pleasant experience," says Blake, “Albert was more willing in the show ring then I would ever have imagined he could be at this stage.”

Blake showed last year’s Young Horse Champion, Catapult, in the Developing Horse Prix St. Georges classes and got good scores and high placings.

“Albert and Catapult are polar opposites,” says Blake. “Catapult always wanted to work, but he did not have Albert’s brilliance. I loved that at Flintridge, the judges actually said they could see Albert as a Grand prix horse, because he is so expressive, so adjustable. He really has a talent for cadence work—and the judges could see that.”

McCool Photo: David Blake and Lord Albert

Blake prepared for the 3- days of competition at Flintridge by working on Albert’s fitness and conditioning, doing canter laps and other kinds of wind work. “Well, I remembered that Catapult had sort of run out of steam by day three of the Six year Old competition, so I wanted to make sure that Albert had enough left for all the days. And honestly, I thought his Final test was his best.

Blake feels that the Young Horse program has helped him immensely. “David Wightman has continued to be so supportive since we were both at the Championships last year. I am so fortunate to have that kind of eye available.”

David says that Albert will have a week or so to relax—but that he himself will be waiting for the results from the East Coast, for the Young Horse results. ”I can only hope we get a chance to go to Verden for the World Championships,” he says. “What an honor!”

"Whatever happens," says Blake, he hopes that the Young Horse program continues to be well supported. "The education has proven so important, not just for me but all of us who train. I want to be sure to thank Scott Hassler and Jennifer Keeler of USEF for keeping the program so well organized.”


Dirk Glitz and Sancette Capture Six-Year-Old Division - Experience Pays Off With Bundeschampionat Rider

In the Six Year Old division, Dirk Glitz and Sancette (Hanoverian gelding) narrowly beat Lars Holmberg on his Danish stallion, Mix Max (Milan x Bajaczo xx).

Glitz says that even the first video he saw of Sancette, he told business partner and FEI trainer Gwen Blake, “This is one of the nicest horses I’ve seen in a long time.” Glitz moved to the U.S. in 2001, but in his native Germany, rode many times in the Bundeschampionat, the German Young Horse Championships from which so many top sport stars have emerged. Glitz smiles, “And Sancette just keeps improving.”

Working with USEF Young Horse Dressage Coach Scott Hassler has confirmed his feel and made him feel even more positive about the horse. “It is great to see the Young Horse program develops in the United States, “says Glitz, and adds that he hopes it develops into more of an organization, “because Scott cannot be everywhere all the time, just by himself!”

McCool Photo: Dirk Glitz and Sancette with judging panel, Anne Gribbons, Jayne Ayers, and Janet Foy

Lars Holmberg first saw Mix Max as a 2 ½ year old in Denmark, and told breeder Joergen Olsen that if the young horse did not pass the stallion approvals, he would buy him.

“But then,” laughs Lars, “he passed—and I knew I had to buy him anyway!”

Lars says that it is Mix Max’ rideability and temperament that make it worthwhile to keep him a stallion. “He is always so nice to deal with, and with lots of energy, always ready to go. It’s great!”

Mix Max only did the 30 days test, so to gain final approval, the Danish Verband has certain requirements, and the Young Horse program fit in very well, explains Holmberg, “So we decided to see if the horse could do them.” Holmberg credits Scott Hassler with giving them the encouragement to keep going. “Scott has a wonderful eye, and it has been so good to have him come out here for the big shows.”

Complete results
The Road to the Young Horse Championships - Short List to Date for Verden