Dressage Night

Park Avenue Team Wins Dressage Night’s Continental Cup

The evening session of Opening Day at the 2004 Metropolitan National Horse Show in New York City kicked off with Dressage Night featuring the Continental Cup – a team Musical Freestyle competition. A rider at Grand Prix, Intermediaire I, and First Level made up each of three teams. The riders on the “Park Avenue Team” won the Gold Medal with a total score of 239. The Gold Medal winning team scored highly in their kurs: Cynthia Payne of Jupiter, Florida, rode Laredo to 81% in the Grand Prix; Argentina’s Gabriel Armando of Flemington, New Jersey, aboard Euclid scored 80% in the Intermediaire I; and Isabelle Leibler, 9, of Greenwich, Connecticut, riding her German pony Get the Picture scored 78% at First Level.

The Silver Medal went to the “Madison Avenue Team,” with 221 points. Making up the team were: Paige Finnegan of Chelmsford, Pennsylvania, riding Karola I who earned 67% in the Grand Prix; Silke Rembacz of Readington, New Jersey, aboard Bulgari who scored 76% in the I-I; and Chelsea Allen, 11, of Eire, Pennsylvania, riding her Morgan pony Don’t Tell Daddy earned 78% at First Level.

The Bronze Medal went to the “Fifth Avenue Team” comprised of Silke Rembacz aboard Connecticut who scored 73% in the Grand Prix; 1976 Montreal Olympian Dorothy Morkis of Dover, Massachusetts, aboard Mr. Big earned 79% in the I-I; and Rachel Chowanec, 10, of Columbia, Connecticut, riding her Welsh/Thoroughbred cross pony Hakunamatata scored 62% at First Level.

Photo copyrighted: Flashpoint Photography

Cynthia Payne, High Scorer at Grand Prix

Individual ribbons were also awarded to the riders based on their individual scores. Cynthia Payne was the high score at Grand Prix. Gabriel Armando was the top scorer at Intermediaire I. Chelsea Allen won the blue for First Level (the tie with Isabelle Leibler was broken on the technical score).

“What I loved about my performance was that Laredo really rises to occasions like this,” said Cynthia Payne who rode to powerful orchestra music. “He really enjoys the spotlight and I love that. He gives 200% every time out and tonight was another 200% night. I’m very proud of him.”

The duo has been together for four years and came up through the ranks together from Fourth Level. They trained with Dutch Olympian Anky Van Grunsven and later with Bert Rutten, the coach of the Dutch Olympic Team. This was Payne’s first experience with the National Horse Show. “This has been a real treat. It’s a privilege to do this for a living and a privilege to be in such a great horse show,” she said.

Gabriel Armando Loves New York

“It’s good to come back to the city and show,” enthused Gabriel Armand, a former Manhattan banker who is now a professional rider and competed for Argentina in the 2003 Pan American Games.

His ride was a crowd-pleaser with booming orchestrated rock music. “I think the public of New York need to get closer to dressage and when they do, I think they will enjoy it. I brought 20 people who were there clapping for me. Next year I’ll bring more!”

Isabelle Leibler was competing in her second Continental Cup and was pleased with the evening’s results. Her whimsically cute music was based on orchestrated Elvis tunes. “The last time my pony did his freestyle was last year at this show, so I was very happy with the way he did his test,” said Leibler.

At the 2003 Dressage Night, Leibler noted she had the same results as this evening’s performance – a Team Gold Medal and a red ribbon for her individual second place finish. “It feels really great to repeat that,” Leibler smiled.

Silke Rembacz, Two For Two

Silke Rembacz was also competing in her second Continental Cup, and this year rode two horses, filling in at the last moment for injured rider Courtney King. She also showed Connecticut, a 12-year-old breeding stallion owned by Highlife Farm in Orlando, Florida, who was competing in his very first Grand Prix, scoring a 73%. Rembacz chose modern big beat music for the powerful mover.

In the open slot, she debuted her fabulous new horse Bulgari, an 11-year-old imported from Germany last month. She has only been partnered with him for two weeks and rode to beautiful classical music.

“I enjoy coming because it is a very old, prestigious competition,” said Rembacz. “I enjoy the fact that this is something that jumpers and dressage can do together a little bit. I also enjoy coming in to Manhattan. The audience is really great. It’s fun that we’re invited to come here and show a little bit of what we do.”

Lendon Gray's Vision For Youth

The Dressage Night competition was by invitation only. The riders were selected and teamed up by two-time Olympian Lendon Gray who also acted as announcer for the night’s freestyles. The judges were Margaret Freeman of Mt. Kisco, New York, and Heather Mason of Lebanon, New Jersey.

“I’m so thrilled any time we can present dressage to perhaps a non-dressage crowd,” said Gray. “These riders were so wonderful to give their time and energy and come do something like this. I’m so appreciative of what they did because it’s very important. I certainly hope we’ll continue to do it and develop it – we changed the format from four teams to three this year.”

Known for her commitment to the sport and young riders, Gray specifically kept the children and their ponies in the Continental Cup format.

“Because of my personal interest, I like to see the kids show that it isn’t just older people riding fancy horses. You can start at a young age. It was great for the audience to see the girls on their ponies and then also watch an Olympic medallist show where the sport goes to.”

by Mary Hilton - for Phelps Media Group

Related Links
Who's Who: Cynthia Payne
Who's Who: Silke Rembacz
Who's Who: Lendon Gray
Highlife Farm's Connecticut - up for stud
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