Loxahatchee, Florida – Two months after returning to the U.S., Wellington 248, with his owner and rider Melissa Jackson aboard, grabbed a Grand Prix win in the prestigious Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI. Wellington and Jackson won Saturday's FEI Open Grand Prix with a score of 66.383. Placing second were James Koford and Don Principe with a score of 65.957 and third was Betsy Rebar Sell riding Wonderful Walden to a score of 65.106 percent. "He did great," Jackson said of her 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding. Two years ago, she sent the horse to Europe to Hubertus Schmidt and began a back-and-forth commute between Europe and her home in Florida. Wellington just returned home to the U.S. in December.
Jackson is a professional rider and trainer and is married with two young girls. Spending months away from home to train in Germany was not an option for her. "After having kids, I had thought the European thing could not happen for me, but my husband asked me, 'Why not?' He said maybe I can't do it the traditional way, but that didn't mean it couldn't happen. He was such super support," she said.
The solution Jackson and her husband, John, developed was for the horse to stay in Europe and for her to fly back and forth spending only two or three weeks at a time training with Schmidt. Schmidt, she said, was as supportive of the plan as was her husband. "He knew that with my family, I couldn't be away from home for long periods of time. But when I was able to be there, he gave me 110 percent of his attention. Between him and my husband and my parents and my clients, I had tremendous support," Jackson said.
During her trips to Europe, she not only got training time with Schmidt, but also had the opportunity to compete in Europe with Wellington. "And we did well. We often placed around fourth or fifth" she said. "Overall, it was a great experience." What Schmidt most taught her was that every day of riding should aim for the same goals, whether at a show or at home. "Every day, you want the balance, consistency and relaxation. It doesn't matter if you are at home in the ring or at a show. This attitude simplified things for me and removed the stress of showing because the show should be no different than at home," Jackson said.
Although she has competed at Grand Prix before, Jackson said Wellington is her first really high-level Grand Prix horse. She said she has no set goal for him other than to use him to advance her own riding and to keep him happy. "I want to work on my riding and get more experience in the Grand Prix and enjoy him. And I want him to be relaxed and not feel pressured. What I'd most like to do is go back to Europe some day," she said.
Although the time spent with Schmidt did much to improve both Jackson and Wellington, she also gives much credit for their success to her main coach, Todd Fletrich. "Todd is just awesome. He has such a good eye and he's so soft. Without his help, we would have never made it this far. He has been really, really wonderful," Jackson said.
In the CDI Grand Prix for Sunday's Freestyle, the winner was a pair that has been gathering quite a few blue ribbons in Grand Prix competition this winter season – Mikala Gundersen and Leonberg. They took the win with a score of 68.426. Behind them in second place were Michael Barisone and Neruda with a score of 65.149 percent. Third was Jane Hannigan riding Maksymilian to a score of 64.766.
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