Heather Mason (USA) and Zar finished on top of the FEI Intermediaire Freestyle, presented by Everglades Dressage, with a winning score of 72.275% at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AFDF). Second place went to Leida Collins-Strijk (NED) and West Side for a score of 71.150% and Austria's Katharina Stumpf rounded out the top three with a score of 67.000% on Nymphenburg's Love. The FEI Intermediaire Freestyle was on the final day of the first week of the AGDF, sponsored by MTICA Farm and Everglades Dressage. Competition will resume on January 1619 with the AGDF 2 Dressage National and Gold Coast Dressage CDI. The feature event of the "Friday Night Stars" is the Wellington Wild West Show, with exhibitions such as trick riders, comedy acts, barrel racing, roping, roman riding teams, and more for a full western rodeo atmosphere! The AGDF continues for 11 more weeks of top dressage competition through March 30.
Despite a few minor missteps, Mason was overall very pleased with Zar's performance during the test. "I had two little mistakes. One going into the first shoulder-in that he wasn't expecting, so we kind of wavered into it. The other one was the second extended canter. He switched [leads] behind when I brought him back. But he felt great. He was very happy. His changes and his pirouettes were very good," Mason described.
Now that Zar's rideability has been solidly established, Mason will start to work on his expression in preparation for the AGDF 3 CDI W, presented by US P.R.E. Association and Chespeake Dressage Institute, which runs January 23-26.
"What I need to do is get more power in him still. More power, more expression. He's very consistent. He's very obedient. Now I just need to get a little bit more brilliance out of him," Mason detailed.
"I'm going to start working more with piaffe-passage work, which he's done before, but hasn't been a focus," Mason continued. "I haven't really been using it to strengthen his [Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire tests], which I think I need to do."
Mason tailors her care for each horse, including a simple routine of lunging Zar simply for 10 minutes before he is ridden. Despite a tendency to feed off any nerves his rider may exhibit, Mason says Zar is a simple ride as long as he gets his morning lunge. Zar has even played schoolmaster for one of Mason's young clients. "I have one junior rider who's been with me for a few years now and she'll ride him on the weekends - but she always lunges him first. She's a fairly timid rider, but she knows how to handle him now. She's learning a lot on him. She does the changes, (and) she's learned pirouettes on him," Mason revealed.