Rocher, the 17-year-old charismatic mare with floppy ears, was "excited to be back in the ring" Friday and move another step closer to fulfilling rider George Williams' dream of making this year's U.S. team for the Olympic Games.
Williams and Rocher posted a score of 69.063 per cent to win the Grand Prix in the Equestrian Sport Productions Wellington Dressage, the first of three dressage events at the CN Winter Equestrian Festival presented by Zimmerman Advertising at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
Olympian Lisa Wilcox on Naomi was second with 68.333 per cent while Williams filled third place with his other Grand Prix mount, Marnix, at 65.625 per cent. Rocher and Marnix are owned by Chuck and Joann Smith of Gypsy Woods Farm, Richwood, Ohio.
Photo: Susan J. Stickle
Williams said he has been developing the strength and fitness of Rocher, who returned to competition just five months ago after a long layoff. "The number one goal has been to strengthen her to improve her carriage and frame," Williams said. "She was excited to be back in the ring... I could feel it as she came down the center line. But I need to get her reacquainted with the ring."
As a "constant dreamer," his goal is to qualify in Florida for the Olympic selection trials, go to Europe for several weeks of competition before heading to California for the trials in June. Williams, who is 52 years old, said that although the Westphalen mare is 17, "this is the year to push her."
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Editor's Note: In the first of a 3 show series at the CN Winter Equestrian Festival presented by Zimmerman Advertising at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, the new management headed by Mark Bellissimo is dedicated to the Dressage community. Currently the show is being held in the Wellington South area previously known as Littlewood, but Bellissimo told DressageDaily massive headway has been made developing the new area dedicated to dressage where the original Palm Beach Polo and the Winter Equestrian Festival held their first events over 20 years ago.
"This will be an area dedicated to dressage, and we are working towards having it ready for the CDI in March, including featuring the freestyle classes at night under the lights"