Wellington, FL – After watching dressage rider and trainer Endel Ots and his students in the show ring so far this year, it’s hard to deny that Ots has found a real system for success. The Wellington, Florida-based trainer has been competing since a young age, and has been enjoying international victories for the past several years. His students, particularly Chase Hickok and Barbara “Bebe” Davis, have quickly risen to the top of dressage rankings. As the high scores just keep coming for Ots and his team, he stays focused on his methodical approach to training: “I focus on setting very specific goals, really listening to the horse, and understanding the horse and rider pair,” he said.
Apparently, this strategy is paying off. Ots began working with Chase Hickok last year, after Hickok completed her Under 25 tour and prepared to compete against a bigger and more experienced pool of professionals. Under Ots’ coaching and aboard the impressive 18-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Sagacious HF (Welt Hit II x Judith), owned by Al Guden of Hyperion Farm, Hickok recently concluded an incredible several months. She placed second in a World Cup Qualifier Freestyle at the 2017 Adequan Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, and then went to Europe in July to represent the United States on FEI Nations Cup teams in Falsterbo, Sweden and in Hickstead, England. “She was the high scoring American rider in both Falsterbo and Hickstead, and was anchor rider on the Hickstead team,” Ots recounted. “She came in second, behind Patrik Kittel in the Freestyle in Falsterbo. She did very well over there.” Of course, Ots was coaching from the sidelines throughout the journey.
Hickok has been competing Sagacious since 2014, and the pair has seen their share of ups and downs together. The spirited gelding has not been known for being an easy ride. “It really helped to set very specific goals and really listening to Sagacious,” Ots explained. “He’s had over 170 Grand Prix rides in his career - that’s more than a lot of Grand Prix trainers put together - so we have to figure out what moments we can ask more of him, and what moments we have to sit back and let him do what he wants to do.”
Meanwhile, Ots’ student Bebe Davis has also been achieving outstanding results. Davis has been unstoppable under Ots’ instruction aboard Fiderhit OLD, a nine-year-old Oldenburg mare (Fidertanz x Fleur) owned by Mike Davis. “We first worked on the Small Tour with this mare - she’s got real talent for the piaffe and passage, but she needed to get a little bit more familiar in the Small Tour ring and Bebe needed to be able to get to know her,” said Ots.
“We did some shows this summer that really boosted their confidence, since the mare is new to showing at that level and she is a new partner for Bebe.” Increased confidence is certainly not all the pair achieved, though - Davis and Fiderhit OLD won the individual gold medal at the Adequan/FEI North American Junior & Young Rider Dressage Championships (NAJRYC) in July 2017 in Saugerties, New York. They assisted their team to the team gold medal, as well, with Davis as the highest scoring rider on the team. “I did a similar thing with Fiderhit as with Sagacious,” said Ots. “I made sure that we set very specific goals and that we really listened to the horse, and listened to the horse and rider as a combination so that we could strategize how to best reach our goals.”
As a dressage trainer, Ots doesn’t just talk the talk; he rides the ride, as well. Between traveling to Europe to coach and training horses and riders in the U.S. this year, Ots qualified his seven-year-old Hanoverian gelding Lucky Strike (Lord Laurie x His Highness) for the Markel/United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Young and Developing Dressage Horse National Championships at the Lamplight Equestrian Center in Wayne, Illinois. The pair earned the Reserve Champion title in the Developing Prix St. Georges. “I was very happy with him; it was a close competition,” Ots said. Their success came as no surprise, as the pair also qualified for these championships in 2015 and 2016, as well as the FEI World Breeding Championships for Young Dressage Horses in Verden, Germany both of those years. “Now, I’m getting him ready for the 2018 Small Tour CDI season in Wellington, Florida.” Ots planned.
With their 2017 victories fresh in mind, Ots, his students, and horses will be a group to watch in the 2018 international show season.