When Guenter Seidel and Elizabeth Ball found themselves tied for the lead in Saturday’s Grand Prix at the L.A. Winter Dressage national show January 24-25 with their respective horses Zero Gravity and Liaison, the two had a little fun with the situation. “Guenter won [the tie], and I accused him of not being very gentlemanly,” said Ball with a laugh. “But seriously, if we win or tie, we all win.” It’s indicative of the camaraderie Ball has come to appreciate at shows in California. “We’re all so supportive of one another. Even though we might come from totally different barns, there’s not an ounce of competitive tension. Everyone is totally generous.” When Ball bested a field of 14 in the Prix St. Georges on her own Avanti with a score of 76.974%, Seidel (who also competed in the class with his 8-year-old Westfalen gelding Rey del Mundo) was quick to compliment her, saying, “Now that’s a Pan Am team score.”
Competing together comes naturally for the pair, who have been close friends since they were on the silver medal-winning U.S. dressage team at the 1995 Pan American Games in Buenos Aires. Seidel also coaches Ball. “She’s so fun to work with,” he said, “and her horses are really solid this year.”
Avanti (Tuchinski x Fleur) followed his big win on Saturday with another on Sunday, leading the Intermediaire 1 class with a score of 73.553%. “He’s going incredibly well at home,” said Ball of the 9-year-old Dutch gelding, whom she’s aiming for a small tour berth on the U.S. team at this summer’s Pan Am Games in Toronto. “We’re working on the Grand Prix work to strengthen him and help him gain confidence.”
Though Ball and her 11-year-old Westfalen mare Liaison (Laomedon x Farenze) are only coming up on their first year together, they’ve also made great strides.
Seidel has been riding Zero Gravity for even less time, but the 10-year-old Dutch gelding (Royal Hit x Naica) has the makings of a future team horse, winning Sunday’s Grand Prix Special in Burbank with a 71.569%. Moorpark, CA, trainer Marie Meyers discovered him three years ago on a buying trip in Belgium. “Guenter asked me to keep my eyes open for a quality, safe horse for his client Erin Boddaert,” Meyers recalled. “Before I was even out of the barn, I called Guenter and said, ‘I’ve found Erin’s horse!’ He’s a lovely, lovely horse with a great mind.”
Boddaert rode him with Seidel until she got pregnant with her third child. But she believed in the horse’s potential and spoke to her parents, Charlotte and James Mashburn, about turning over the ride to the three-time Olympic medalist. “I’d always liked him, but I never thought of him for myself,” said Seidel. “He’s just a great character, a very honest horse, and the Mashburns are the greatest people. They know horses and are very easy to work with.”
Though Seidel expects Zero Gravity to compete in February’s Mid-Winter Dressage CDI, he says he won’t push the horse. “It’s his first season at Grand Prix, so I’m not hurrying. But I think and hope he’ll improve. By next year, I think he’ll be ready.”