Gladstone, NJ – June 15th, the second day of the Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions, got underway with the Brentina Cup. Organized for young adults and named for Debbie McDonald's World Cup Champion mare, the Brentina Cup is open to riders 21-25 years of age.
Performing the Intermediaire II test, the horses in the Brentina Cup are developing their skills for the highest level of dressage competition.The second horse of the day filled up the ring with plenty of presence and caught the eye of the judges taking the early lead. Manhattan, a 13-year-old KWPN nearly white gelding showed lots of maturity with rider Jodie Kelly to pick up a score of 63.122%
"My ride today was not what I hoped it would be," said Kelly. "It was a pretty clean test but he was a little up." Their lead held until the second rider after the break when a very exuberant Nimbus bounded down the center line with former event rider Nicholia Zamora and took command of the ring.
From Irvine, CA Zamora, riding the 12-year-old KWPN gelding for Diane Morley, made an impression in her first trip to the Festival. Despite a few moments of inattentiveness, Nimbus' lively composition and flashy gaits made up for a little distraction early on. They landed on a score of 66.00%
"It was an honor to even come down the center line here," said Zamora. "Such a journey to get to this spot. A lot of stars have to be aligned to even get to this spot especially traveling all the way from California. So just getting to go in the ring was amazing and getting to have a good test was just icing on the cake. He's so much fun to ride."
Two riders later Vermonter Elizabeth Austin, a winner last year in the Brentina Cup returned to the Championship and put in a beautiful effort with the lovely moving Olivier. The 11-year-old KWPN tried very hard and his ability and panache were well rewarded. Their score of 67.317% pushed them ahead of Zamora.
"I schooled him in the morning just to see what I had," said Austin. "He felt really quite good to me. He can be a bit hot but he came out today totally on the job so that was good. I was unbelievably happy with him but not so happy with myself. He really saved me in a couple of spots and I went off course. I was here last year you think I would know better. I was super, super proud of him in the piaffe and passage. Compared to last year he has really matured in that. Aside from my mistakes the work feels more secure."
Owned by Madeline Austin, the very flashy gelding is by Idocus who is also competing at the Festival. The 17-year-old stallion was second in the Grand Prix Special with Courtney King. "I got to ride my test (last week) for Courtney," said Austin. "It was amazing she gave me a few real good pointers and its fantastic, She said, 'Oh I know where he gets that from.' I've looked up to her since I was 15 years old. To be here with her is kind of surreal."
Bonnie Efird and Maggie Noir Best of the Juniors
The Juniors followed the Brentina Cup riders onto the stage in Gladstone and put forth consistent efforts throughout the division with lots of quality performances. Bonnie Efird, from Waxhaw, NC and Magie Noir ended up best of the bunch. Barring a mistake in a pirouette and a wobbly final centerline, the 13-year-old KWPN mare showed lots of class, good engagement and excellent flying changes. They were rewarded with a score of 65.4%.
"My goal was to just get here," said a smiling Efird. "I just bought this mare in October and I've been working on the Junior test with her. I plan on keeping her for awhile. I didn't think that it was my strongest ride I've ever had. Overall it was solid and I'm proud of her no matter what. I had a little trouble in the walk pirouettes and in the canter depart which are not things I usually have problems with."
Two horses later another mare gave Magie Noir a run for her money. Ghita carried Taryn Briones into the ring and put in a valiant effort. The adorable 9-year-old Hanoverian mare picked up a 10 in one of the half passes and exemplified very solid flying changes. All the way from Snohomish, WA , Briones made the trip worth it with her very polished performance slipping in just behind Efird with a score of 63.1%.
"I was happy with it," said Briones. "All the bobbles that happened were my fault. That always happen. I got done and could think that it was a good ride and I was happy with it and hope we just improve on Sunday. She's a good mare. I'm happy where she is right now."
Lora Kay Witterstaeter and Weltkaar, third in the ring held on for third. The 16-year-old Hanoverian gelding put in a very steady and consistent effort to score 64.6%.Witterstaeter has ridden at Jodie Kelly's barn since she was 5 years old and Weltkaar is a hand-me down horse from her coach. "He's really big so it's hard to keep him pizzazy throughout his test, but it was fun," said Witterstaeter.The Junior competition concludes on Sunday and each day accounts for 50% of the score.
Steffen Peters and Courtney King Tie for the Lead in the Grand Prix
The hunt for the Grand Prix Special honors was fierce late in the afternoon. Three very different horses staked their claim to the honors and in the end, a tie had to be broken between two of them.
Crowd-pleasing Rociero, the only P.R.E. (Pura Reisa Espanola) in the competition, didn't disappoint his fans. In second place coming into the competition the strengths of his test lay in his passage and his changes with rider Kristina Harrison-Naness. Lack of impulsion in the pirouettes cost the pair a couple of points but they marched happily through their test with plenty of charisma. With a score of 70.16% he went to the lead – momentarily.
"I was thrilled with my ride," said Harrison-Naness. "I felt like my horse gave me all he had. I could feel the humidity today, I think the Californian horses breathe a lot harder. He was with me the whole ride. My whole goal here was to be consistent and that we've done."
Harrison-Naness was followed immediately in the ring by Courtney King and the 17-year-old KWPN stallion Idocus. An elegant effort, highlighted by straight 8s on the one-tempi changes and very polished canter work made up for any disappointment from the first day. On the strength of plenty of 8s in the collective marks King slipped into the lead with a score of 71.76%. Idocus had been feeling under the weather yesterday, explaining his unusually score for the consistent campaigner.
"The vets felt he was a little dehydrated," said King. "They did a lot of massage and body work and chiropractic adjustment to relieve what was bothering from breeding. They definitely did a stellar job. Yesterday, try as he might, he just couldn't do it. It was hard, he wasn't himself today but he could do it. I'm hoping tomorrow he feels a little bit better. Yesterday I came out of the ring in tears and I wanted to scratch him out but everyone said let's look at the horse and see if there is something we can relieve and warm him up today and see how he is. It was hard, I was a little apprehensive in the beginning. But I had to put it out of my mind. It was hard and we were both having to work hard but he could do it."
Overnight leader and Olympic medalist Steffen Peters followed King into the ring on Lombardi and used all of his skill to finesse a stellar performance out of the exuberant 16-year-old Holsteiner. Uncharacteristically, the test was marred by a few mistakes and Peters worked hard for each point. The consummate professional, Peters picked up eights and a nine for his riding. He too ended on a score of 71.76%. Using the collective marks to break the tie, Peters won the second portion of the Grand Prix and King ended up second.
"My (collective) score was just one point ahead of Courtney's, a little luck sometimes," said Peters. "At the end of the day it was Brian (O'Connor)'s fault because right when I came in he announced Courtney's score and I like her a lot but when we go down the center line it's competition. When they announced it was a 71 I knew I had to step it up and that's what we did."
After the first two portions of the Grand Prix Peters leads from Harrison-Nanes and Jane Hannigan (who was fourth in the Special).